Instagram is pausing the development of a controversial plan to build a version of its app for tweens, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said Monday morning. The change comes just days before a Facebook executive is set to testify at a congressional hearing on Facebook and Instagram's impact on teen mental health.
"We're pausing. We're going to take the time to work with parents, policymakers, regulators, experts, to demonstrate why this project is valuable, and how it helps keep teens safe. Critics will see this as a concession that the project is a bad idea. That's not it," Mosseri wrote in a tweet.
The "Instagram Kids" plan has been widely criticized by regulators and critics who believe that children already have a toxic experience on Instagram, and that building an app for younger Instagram users would just perpetuate already existing problems for a younger audience. A recent Wall Street Journal investigation found that Instagram has conducted and failed to acknowledge research that shows that around one-third of teen girls who already feel bad about their bodies say that Instagram makes them feel worse, and that some teens blame the app for perpetuating mental health issues with depression and anxiety.
Facebook denied the framing of the Journal investigation Sunday, claiming that their research shows that most teenagers find the app helps them in times of crisis. "In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse," Instagram's vice president of research Pratiti Raychoudhury wrote Sunday.
Despite the pause on the kids product, Mosseri said that he still believes the app is a useful tool to help parents protect young people who are inevitably and already online. "I have to believe parents would prefer the option for their children to use an age-appropriate version of Instagram — that gives them oversight — than the alternative. But I'm not here to downplay their concerns, we have to get this right," he wrote.