Facebook is shelving Instagram Kids after backlash from child advocates and policymakers, who say the children’s social media service would be detrimental to their mental and emotional well-being.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, however, wants critics to know that the break in the app’s development is not “an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case."
In a blog post published on Monday, Mosseri said building the service, which will cater to children under the age of 13, is “still the right thing to do”.
“We started this project to address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older,” he wrote.
“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.”
In the meantime, Mosseri said the group would meet 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".
“The reality is that kids are already online,” he said. “And we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”
News of the pre-teen Instagram service was announced earlier this year, and almost immediately received pushback. In May, an open letter criticising the project was signed by attorney generals from 44 US states and addressed to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“Research increasingly demonstrates that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children,” the letter read.
“In fact, an online-monitoring company tracking the activity of 5.4 million children found that ‘Instagram was frequently flagged for suicidal ideation, depression and body image concerns’.”
The letter also cited a study that discovered more cases of “sexual grooming on Instagram than any other platform”, noting that Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images in 2020.
“Facebook has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children on its platform, despite claims that its products have strict privacy controls,” the letter read, before concluding: “In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons.”