< Facebook Puts Hold on Child Version of Instagram as Opposition Grows
By Bryan Lynn
29 September 2021

Facebook has put a hold on the development of a child version of its Instagram service.

The move comes after major child advocacy groups and U.S. lawmakers urged Facebook to drop its launch plans for the new service, called Instagram Kids.

In this file photo, silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)
In this file photo, silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

The decision was announced in an online post by Instagram's chief, Adam Mosseri.

Mosseri said company officials still "stand by the need to develop the (Instagram Kids) experience." However, a delay in the project will give Instagram the chance "to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators" on how it should move forward.

Facebook announced plans for Instagram Kids in March. Instagram says the application is meant for children between the ages of 10 and 12. The company says while the service is designed for kids, it will contain tools for parents to "supervise and control" their child's experience.

"The reality is that kids are already online," Mosseri said in his online post. "And we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today."

He added that Instagram Kids aims to cut down on cases of children misrepresenting their age so they can download and use apps meant for people over age 13.

Mosseri said kids will need to get parental permission to join the service and it will not contain advertisements. Parents will be able to supervise the time their children spend on the app and control who they can message and follow.

But the plans have faced opposition from child advocacy groups and some U.S. lawmakers.

In May, a group of 44 U.S. attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They urged him to cancel the project because it could harm children. The group warned the service could increase cyberbullying and help online predators reach children. It also accused Facebook of not taking necessary steps in the past to safeguard user privacy and protect children.

Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app. The company said that service was designed as a way for children to communicate through the app with family members and friends approved by parents. Child development experts later urged the company to shut down Messenger Kids, but Facebook did not do so.

Josh Golin is executive director of the online child advocacy group Fairplay. He called on Facebook in a statement to permanently end its plans to launch Instagram Kids. "We won't stop pressuring Facebook until they permanently pull the plug," Golin said.

A group of Democratic members of Congress urged the same. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey wrote for the group on Twitter that Facebook's latest decision showed the company had heard the calls to halt plans to launch Instagram Kids. He added, however, that the temporary delay is not enough. "Facebook must completely abandon this project."

Mosseri said while work is stopped on Instagram Kids, the company plans to expand its parental supervision tools to Instagram accounts of those 13 and older. He said more details on those tools will be shared in the coming months.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

advocacy – n. of expression of support for a particular idea or way of doing things

kidn. a child or young person

regulator – n. to body with the responsibility to control an activity or process, especially by using rules

application (app) –n. a computer program that carries out a specific job

appropriate – adj. suitable or right for a particular situation

cyberbullying – v. the mistreatment or abuse of someone online

predatorv. someone who follows people in order to harm them or commit a crime against them

pull the plug – v. (phrasal) to do something that prevents an activity from continuing

abandonv. to stop doing an activity before it is finished

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