This comes after 250 academics signed an open letter to Zuckerberg expressing concerns around Instagram’s impact on teens.
Amid growing concern around the impact of Instagram on teens, the Meta-owned company has developed new tools and features to make young people safer on the platform, including updated privacy rules, tools for parents and a “Take a Break” feature.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri introduced the new features in a blog post and said that the company will be taking a stricter approach to what is recommended to teens on the app and stop people from tagging or mentioning teens that don’t follow them.
Nudges to steer teens’ attention away from something they’ve been dwelling on for a long time will also be introduced, while a “Take a Break” feature to help them manage their time on the app has already been launched today in several countries, including Ireland.
“It’s important to me that people feel good about the time they spend on Instagram, so today we’re launching ‘Take A Break’ to empower people to make informed decisions about how they’re spending their time,” wrote Mosseri in a blog post.
“If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, we’ll ask them to take a break from Instagram and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. We’ll also show them expert-backed tips to help them reflect and reset.”
This comes after more than 250 international academics signed an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing concern that the company’s internal research on potential harms caused by its platforms to adolescents is poorly designed and too secretive.
The group urged the Facebook-owner to take three concrete steps to support the mental health of young people: greater transparency on internal research, contribution to global independent research and establishing an independent oversight trust on Meta platforms.
“We have been following news reports about research within your companies on the mental health of child and adolescent users of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Unfortunately, that research is happening behind closed doors and without independent oversight,” the letter read.
They argued that Instagram’s internal research does not “meet the high scientific standards required” and urged the company to accept independent oversight. “Sound science must come before firm conclusions are drawn or new tools are launched,” it went on.
While Mosseri did not address any of the concerns raised directly, he said in the blog post that Instagram has positive impact on young people and that the company will “continue doing research, consulting with experts, and testing new concepts to better serve teens”.
Apart from the host of new features, including monitoring tools for parents launching in March and an “educational hub” later, Mosseri said that Instagram is continuing to develop ways to verify people’s ages on Instagram.
In September, Facebook succumbed to a wave of criticism and suspended the development of Instagram Kids, a version of the app for 10 to 12-year-olds. In the following month, whistleblower Frances Haugen exposed the company for being aware of negative impacts of Instagram and doing nothing about it.
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