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07th Dec 2021

Instagram launches new features aimed at protecting teens

Laura Grainger

The new features follow the halt on the development of an Instagram Kids.

Instagram is launching several new features aimed at improving the experience of teenagers using the app.

The move comes several months after the platform halted its plans to develop a children’s version of the app, Instagram Kids, due to psychological and safety-related concerns from both parents and policymakers alike.

At the time, the company said it would instead integrate parental supervision and other tools inspired by feedback.

The new tools currently being rolled out hope to improve younger users’ safety and mental health while using the app.

One of the new features, “Take a Break,” aims to break cycles of endless scrolling by allowing users to set reminders to take a break from the app if they’ve been on it for a certain amount of time.

A message pops up with suggestions of off-screen activities to do, such as “take a few deep breaths” or “write down what you’re thinking”.

Another feature nudges a user who has been looking at content of a particular topic (eg. beauty) for a long time to check out other topics instead.

Teen accounts will also have more control over their content and will be able to delete several old posts in bulk rather than one at a time.

Other Instagram accounts won’t be able to tag or mention teen accounts they don’t follow.

Coming later in March 2022, Instagram will roll out supervision tools for parents and guardians to monitor their kids’ activity on the app.

Parents will be able to see and limit how much time their kids are spending on the platform.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri is set to speak to US Congress about protecting kids online on Wednesday.

In a release announcing the features today, Mosseri wrote: “Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere. I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram. We’ll continue doing research, consulting with experts, and testing new concepts to better serve teens.”

Instagram and parent company Meta (previously Facebook) came under fire earlier this year after a damning report by The Wall Street Journal claimed the company’s own research suggested the image-sharing platform is “toxic for teen girls.”

The company defended itself in a statement at the time, saying: “It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls. The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced.”