Instagram tightens protections for teens as Senate hearing looms

Instagram tightens protections for teens today on the eve of Senate hearing on whether it is ‘toxic’ for youngsters after its own research revealed it was harmful

  • Instagram is cracking down on the content it recommends to teenagers
  • It will bar people from mentioning teens who do not follow them on the platform
  • IG will ‘nudge’ teens who scroll on topic for a long period, suggesting a break
  • The break feature launched today in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US 

Instagram has tightened protections for teens on the eve of a US Senate hearing on whether it is ‘toxic’ for youngsters after its own research revealed the app was harmful. 

Among the most dramatic changes, the Facebook-owned app will ‘nudge’ teens towards new content if they are dwelling on a certain topic.

And it will even suggest youngsters take a break if they are spending too long on Instagram, CEO Adam Mosseri announced on Tuesday in a blog post.

The shakeup comes as Mosseri is set to be grilled by Senators on Wednesday over what the Silicon Valley giant is doing to protect children.

He was summoned after leaked internal research commissioned by the billion dollar firm showed teenage girls had increased suicidal thoughts from using Instagram.

Fury over how the company sat on this knowledge for two years forced bosses to pull a new ‘Instagram Kids’ platform which was planned for children under 13. 

Amid public backlash, Instagram will be stricter about what it recommends to teen users, according to its chief executive

Facebook had known for two years that Instagram is toxic for young girls but continued to add beauty-editing filters to the app, despite six per cent of suicidal girls in America blaming it for their desire to kill themselves, according to documents given to the Wall Street Journal 

How is Instagram tightening protection for teens? 

Instagram will be stricter about what it recommends to teen users, and will stop people from mentioning teens who don’t follow them on the platform.

Instagram will also start ‘nudging’ teens toward new topics if there is one they have been dwelling on for a while, and suggest they take a break if they have been spending a lot of time on the platform.

‘If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, we’ll ask them to take a break from Instagram,’ CEO Adam Mosseri said.

The break suggestion feature launched in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, and will expand to other countries by early next year, according to Instagram.

The platform also introduced an educational hub for parents, to ‘help them get more involved with their teen’s experiences’ and tools for them to set limits on how much time their children spend in the app, Mosseri said.

‘Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere,’ Mosseri said in the blog post.

‘I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.’

Mosseri also said Instagram was switching off the ability for people to tag or mention teens who do not follow them on the app.

He said that starting January, teen Instagram users would be able to bulk delete their content and previous likes and comments.

He said Instagram was exploring controls to limit potentially harmful or sensitive material suggested to teens through its search function, hashtags, short-form video Reels and its ‘Suggested Accounts’ feature, as well as on its curated ‘Explore’ page.

The blog also said that on Tuesday, Instagram was launching its ‘Take a Break’ feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, which reminds people to take a brief pause from the app after using it for a certain amount of time.

It said in March next year Instagram would launch its first tools for parents and guardians to see how much time their teens spend on the app and set time limits.

An Instagram spokesman said it would continue its pause on plans for a version of Instagram for kids.

Instagram suspended plans for the project in September, amid growing opposition to the project.

Instagram’s parent company Meta, which also oversees Facebook, is battling a serious reputational crisis after a whistleblower leaked reams of internal documents showing executives knew of their sites’ risks for teens’ well-being, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

Mosseri is to testify Wednesday at a Senate committee hearing titled ‘Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users.’

CEO Adam Mosseri appeared on the TODAY show in September to reveal the site would pause a new Instagram Kids feature  

‘After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,’ said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat.

The move followed a Wall Street Journal report that said internal documents, leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, showed the company knew Instagram could have harmful mental health effects on teenage girls, for example on their views of body image.

Facebook has said the leaked documents have been used to paint a false picture of the company’s work.

State attorneys general and lawmakers had also raised concerns about the kids-focused app.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington

Last month, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. state attorneys general said it had opened a probe into Facebook for promoting Instagram to children despite potential harms. 

‘Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along,’ Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn said in a statement.

‘My colleagues and I see right through what they are doing.’

Meta has vehemently pushed back at accusations that its platforms are ‘toxic’ for teens or that it puts profit over user safety.


Question of the things you’ve felt in the last month, did any of them start on Instagram? Select all that apply

Not attractive

41% (US)

43% (UK)

 Don’t have enough money

42% (US)

42% (UK)

 Don’t have enough friends

32% (US)

33% (UK)

 Down, sad or depressed

10% (US)

13% (UK)

 Wanted to kill themselves

6% (US)

13% (UK)

 Wanted to hurt themselves

9% (US)

7% (UK)

Question: In general, how has Instagram affected the way you feel about yourself, your mental health? 

Much worse

US boys and girls: 3%

US boys: 2%

US girls: 3% 

UK total: 2%

UK boys: 1%

UK girls: 2% 

 Somewhat worse

US total: 16%

US Boys 12%

US girls: 18% 

 UK total: 19%

UK boys: 13%

UK girls: 23%

 No effect

US total: 41%

US boys: 37%

US girls: 43%

UK total: 46%

UK boys: 50%

UK girls: 44% 

 Somewhat better

US total: 29%

US boys: 32%

US girls: 29% 

UK total: 28%

UK boys: 31%

UK girls: 26%

 Much better

US total: 12%

US boys: 18%

US girls 8%

UK total: 5%

UK boys: 5%

UK girls: 4%



Source: Read Full Article