- Instagram is introducing a slew of new features to protect young users, from “Take a Break” to parental time limits.
- Teenage girls, in particular, are negatively affected by time on the app – a fact that the company is well aware of.
- Critics say these features are only happening now because of how Instagram has been called to appear in front of Congress for ethical reasons.
As the popularity and usage of Instagram grows, so do the concerns about the harm it is potentially causing people, especially teenagers. Based on evidence that suggests extensive use of Instagram can have negative consequences, the owner of Instagram, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) is introducing new features that can help to limit the amount of time users spend in the app.
The new features were launched on December 7 in the UK, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
One of the new features being introduced is the Take-A-Break feature. If someone has been using the app for a certain amount of time, a pop-up will appear suggesting that they take a break. The feature also suggests alternative activities for its users to take up outside of the app.
Beginning in March 2022, parents will be able to set time limits for their child’s daily Instagram usage. If the child opts in, parents will also be notified if the child files a report against another Instagram user.
Coming in January, users will be able to see the entirety of their digital footprint in chronological order. Users will be able to select multiple items at once and delete them in bulk to remove their digital tracks.
Another feature will suggest users explore a different category if they’ve been looking at a certain topic for a long time.
Additionally, people will not be able to tag or mention teens in their posts if they do not follow them back.
These announcements came one day before the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, was set to appear in front of the U.S. Congress to answer questions about the potential harms the app is doing to teens, and how the social media network is addressing these issues.
According to its own internal research, Meta is well aware of how toxic Instagram can be for its users, especially teenage girls.
In his appearance, Mosseri commented that child safety is an issue that affects the entire social media industry, including YouTube and Tik Tok. He also stated that Instagram has been calling for regulations for three years now and that there is nothing more important than youth safety.
While Mosseri mentioned the importance of a regulatory body to oversee standards for age-appropriate experiences in the app, his preference was that the body be an internal industry regulator. He would not explicitly agree to an independent regulatory body to oversee standards and regulations.
Additionally, when asked about the Surgeon General’s 53-page report on mental health and teen suicides that recommends we should limit social media use, Mosseri stood his ground and rejected the notion that social media can be partly blamed for the teen crisis.
While his appearance in front of U.S. Congress showed Mosseri being predictably defensive of his company, the announcement of new features is seen as a step in the right direction.
Teens can choose to easily ignore the Take-A-Break feature, but their parents can exert some control over how much time their children spend on Instagram. This is just one of a number of social media networks, and a break from Instagram could mean more time on Facebook, Tik Tok, or YouTube.
It is important for parents to engage in conversation with their children and make sure they understand the potential harms that social media can inflict.