Sunday, October 17

Facebook pauses work on Instagram Kids after criticism for negative effect

Facebook consistently played down its own research that Instagram can harm the mental well-being of its youngest users, report revealed

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Facebook Inc. said it’s pausing work on rolling out an Instagram Kids site after the social networking company came under criticism for its negative effect on children, especially on teenage girls.

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Facebook said it’s not abandoning the idea to create a dedicated experience for kids under 13, but will take time to discuss with experts, parents and policymakers to “demonstrate the value and need for this product.”

“Critics of’Instagram Kids’ will see this as an acknowledgment that the project is a bad idea,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post Monday. “That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online , and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”

A recent expose in the Wall Street Journal revealed how Facebook consistently played down its own research that photo-sharing app Instagram can harm the mental well-being of its youngest users. Almost a third of young teen girls told Facebook they felt worse about their bodies after scrolling through the site, according to documents reviewed by the newspaper.

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But even before the Journal report, the company had faced criticism that it was trying to loop in kids at an ever younger age despite concerns about privacy and the negative effects of social media on mental health. In May, 44 attorneys general urged Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to drop the project altogether. The revelations in the newspaper that Facebook knew how harmful Instagram could be for teens, many of whom blame Instagram for increases in feelings of anxiety and depression, and yet played down those concerns in public, prompted outcries from lawmakers, some of whom compared Facebook’s actions to the tobacco industry years ago.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security has convened a hearing this week to address kids’ mental health online and Facebook’s research into the impact of its apps on young audiences.

Over the weekend, Facebook issued a rebuttal to the Journal’s reporting, saying that while those dealing with body image issues felt Instagram made it worse for them, users coping with loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues said the app helped in their difficult moments.

In the blog post Monday, Mosseri said Facebook doesn’t agree with how the Journal reported on its research and highlighted measures it has taken in recent days to address issues like negative body image.

Facebook shares were down less than 1 per cent in premarket trading Monday in New York.

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