Facebook has come under fire as one of big tech’s most highlighted ESG-offenders. Facebook-owned Instagram has been targeted for its influence on young people, especially those under the age of 13 who aren’t allowed to use the services but find a way to anyway. Whether it’s targeted advertising toward young people or data privacy violations, Facebook is starting to become one of the more muddied tech companies. It’s not just guns, tobacco, and alcohol stocks that are seen as taboo investments, it’s also companies like Facebook that could be omitted from ESG funds going forward (see “An Introduction To ESG,” First Quarter 2021 ESG Review, p. 2).
In response, Facebook wants to launch a service called Instagram Kids that alters the experience for folks under the age of 13. However, Facebook is pausing the launch of the service due to harsh criticism. Below is a statement by Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, on why the company is building parental supervision tools.
We wanted to provide an update on our work to build an Instagram experience for people under the age of 13, often referred to as “Instagram Kids.” We started this project to address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older.
We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID.
While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers, and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.
Kids Are Already Online
Critics of “Instagram Kids” will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.
We’re not the only company to think so. Our peers recognized these issues and built experiences for kids. YouTube and TikTok have versions of their app for those under 13.
Our intention is not for this version to be the same as Instagram today. It was never meant for younger kids, but for tweens (aged 10 to 12). It will require parental permission to join, it won’t have ads, and it will have age-appropriate content and features. Parents can supervise the time their children spend on the app and oversee who can message them, who can follow them, and who they can follow. The list goes on.
Building Parental Supervision Tools
An important part of what we’ve been developing for “Instagram Kids” is a way for parents to supervise their child’s use of Instagram. While we’re pausing our development of “Instagram Kids,” we’ll continue our work to allow parents to oversee their children’s accounts by expanding these tools to teen accounts (aged 13 and over) on Instagram.
These new features, which parents and teens can opt into, will give parents the tools to meaningfully shape their teen’s experience. We’ll have more to share on this in the coming months.
Continuing Our Focus On Teen Safety
Recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal on our research into teen’s experiences on Instagram has raised a lot of questions for people. To be clear, I don’t agree with how the journal has reported on our research. My colleague Pratiti goes into this more here.
We do research like this so we can make Instagram better. That means our insights often shed light on problems, but they inspire new ideas and changes to Instagram.
Research also informs our work on issues like negative body image. We announced last week that we’re exploring two new ideas: encouraging people to look at other topics if they’re dwelling on content that might contribute to negative social comparison, and a feature tentatively called “Take a Break,” where people could put their account on pause and take a moment to consider whether the time they’re spending is meaningful.
I have three children and their safety is the most important thing in my life. I hear the concerns with this project, and we’re announcing these steps today so we can get it right.