Facebook promises new Instagram features it hopes will lessen the potential harm for teens

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Facebook will nudge teens on Instagram away from harmful content as well as encourage children to take a break from its toxic photo-sharing platform for a while.


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Instagram to prompt teens to take a break

A recent blog post said Instagram wanted to encourage youngsters to look at other topics, especially “if they’re dwelling on content that might contribute to negative social comparison.”

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs, announced these updates on Sunday while appearing on CNN’s State of the Union program. He didn’t provide specifics but did say that Facebook’s algorithms should be “held to account” by regulation if needed.

Instagram will also nudge teens away from harmful content

Aside from helping steer people away from harmful content, Instagram is also introducing a feature tentatively called “Take a Break” to encourage users to take some time off by putting their Instagram account temporarily on pause. Read: How to delete an Instagram story

Clegg said:

We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that a teenagers is looking at the same content over and over again, and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well being, we will nudge them to look at other content.

The new features are “not testing yet but will soon,” The Verge has learned.

Facebook dispatched Clegg to try to salvage Instagram’s reputation following whistleblower Frances Haugen’s devastating testimony before Congress.

Instagram’s reputation is hurting these days

As you may have heard, Facebook’s internal research has proved that Instagram is damaging to teens and harms their mental health. Published by The Wall Street Journal, it says “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”

Presented to Facebook executives back in 2019, the internal research showed that this reaction “was unprompted and consistent across all groups,” noting that some teens said they had suicidal thoughts because of Instagram. For kids who already reported body image issues of some type, the Instagram platform makes “body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” reads one of the slides presented to executives.

The Facebook-owned service attempted to address the problem with an experiment that hid like counts. But this particular change didn’t seem to have much effect, the internal survey has it. The findings apparently prompted the company to never roll out the feature to all users as a new default. Instead, it gave folks the option to turn like counts off, but left them turned on by default.

Instagram recently said its plans for an Instagram Kids app are being scrapped, for now.

Other recently introduced measures to help keep its platform a safe place for underage users include setting accounts to private by default during initial setup, preventing adults from messaging teens who don’t follow them, requiring your birthday to use the service and more.

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