Facebook announced Monday that it is “pausing” the rollout of an Instagram application designed just for kids under the age of 13. The pause comes after widespread criticism of the company’s handling of research showing Instagram is detrimental to young people’s mental health.
“We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said in a blog post.
He went on, “While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”
In recent weeks, Facebook has doubled down in self-defense following a series of Wall Street Journal reports about company’s own internal research about a series of matters, including the toxic effects of Instagram on teen girls. Facebook officials have downplayed the findings to the public as “just plain false.”
In a blog post earlier this month called “What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong,” vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote, “These are serious and complex issues, and it is absolutely legitimate for us to be held to account for how we deal with them. But these stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”
For the last few years, researchers at Instagram — which was acquired by Facebook for reportedly $1 billion in cash and stock in 2012 — have been studying this impact on its users. The Journal’s findings, obtained from an internal Facebook message board, revealed that 32% of teen girls who felt bad about their bodies felt worse because of Instagram. Among those having suicidal thoughts, 13% of British teens and 6% of American teens linked that desire to Instagram, according to the research.