Instagram said it has ramped up teen safety measures in its popular photo-sharing app, with the announcement coming as the firm’s chief executive is set to testify before Congress and following bombshell reports that it was aware of the app’s harm to teenagers.
Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, said in a blog post that the company is rolling out new safety features aimed at the app’s youngest users, with a view to “keeping them safe” on the platform.
“We’ll be taking a stricter approach to what we recommend to teens on the app, we’ll stop people from tagging or mentioning teens that don’t follow them, we’ll be nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time and we’re launching the Take a Break feature” in several markets, including the United States, Mosseri wrote.
The Take a Break feature, which Mosseri said on Nov. 10 that Instagram was testing, allows users to receive in-app break reminders along with expert recommendations for off-app activities.
Mosseri said Instagram would also be launching tools for parents and guardians, including an educational hub and a feature that will let them monitor how much time their teenagers spend on the app and set usage time limits.
Instagram’s new teen safety feature announcement comes as Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on Dec. 8.
“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,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a Dec. 2 statement announcing the Senate hearing in which Mosseri is set to testify, titled “Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users.”
Blumenthal’s statement appears to reference an internal Facebook presentation, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which found that Instagram users, particularly teenage girls, suffer from mental health and body image issues.
One presentation slide obtained by the Journal said that Instagram “makes body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” Another slide read that teens “blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” according to the Journal.
There was also an internal study that examined whether there was a link between suicidal thoughts among teenagers and time spent on Instagram. The presentation slide reviewed by the Journal said that 13 percent of British and 6 percent of American users attribute their self-harming desire to Instagram usage.
Mosseri’s blog post suggests he’s likely to defend Instagram and tout its new safety features before lawmakers on Wednesday.
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” he added.
GQ Pan contributed to this report
By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he’s ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: ‘Hit your target’ and ‘leave the best for last.’