The Oklahoman

Instagram for kids is put on hold

Move follows pushback from lawmakers, advocacy groups

- Michelle Chapman

Facebook is putting a hold on the developmen­t of a kids’ version of Instagram, geared toward children under 13, to address concerns that have been raised about the vulnerabil­ity of younger users.

“I still firmly believe that it’s a good thing to build a version of Instagram that’s designed to be safe for tweens, but we want to take the time to talk to parents and researcher­s and safety experts and get to more consensus about how to move forward,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, in an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today” show.

The announceme­nt follows an investigat­ive series by The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Facebook was aware that the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety.

Yet the developmen­t of Instagram for a younger audience was met with broader opposition almost immediatel­y.

Facebook announced the developmen­t of an Instagram Kids app in March, saying at the time that it was “exploring a parent-controlled experience.” Two months later, a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the project, citing the well-being of children. They cited increased cyberbully­ing, possible vulnerabil­ity to online predators and what they called Facebook’s “checkered record” in protecting children on its platforms. Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.

Josh Golin, executive director of children’s digital advocacy group Fairplay, urged the company Monday

to permanentl­y pull the plug on the app. So did a group of Democratic members of Congress.

“Facebook is heeding our calls to stop plowing ahead with plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids,” tweeted Massachuse­tts Sen. Ed Markey. “But a ‘pause’ is insufficient. Facebook must completely abandon this project.”

The Senate had already planned a hearing Thursday with Facebook’s global safety head, Antigone Davis, to address what the company knows about how Instagram affects the mental health of younger users.

Mosseri maintained Monday that the company believes it’s better for children under 13 to have a specific platform for age-appropriat­e content, and noted that other companies like TikTok and YouTube have app versions for that age group. He said in a blog post that it’s better to have a version of Instagram where parents can supervise and control their experience rather than relying on the company’s ability to verify that kids are old enough to use the app.

 ?? JENNY KANE/AP, FILE ?? A bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans for an Instragram Kids app.
JENNY KANE/AP, FILE A bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans for an Instragram Kids app.

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