Facebook said Monday that it will “pause” its development of Instagram Kids, a social media service for children under 13, after pushback from child advocates, parents and lawmakers. Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the company remains committed to the product but will suspend the project as it seeks to address their concerns.
“We’ll use this time to work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product,” Mosseri wrote in blog post announcing the move to halt work on Instagram Kids.
“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,” he added.
The decision comes after alarm among child advocates, as well as Wall Street Journal investigation, that Facebook’s own research had showed Instagram has a negative mental health impact on many teens. In May, attorneys general from more than 40 states and territories asked Facebook to abandon plans for Instagram Kids, pointing to research that found social media can have a harmful impact on children.
Lawmakers have also weighed in to express their concerns. Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts and Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida recently called on Facebook to abandon Instagram Kids.
“As the internet — and social media specifically — becomes increasingly engrained in children and teens’ lives, we are deeply concerned that your company continues to fail in its obligation to protect young users and has yet to commit to halt its plans to launch new platforms targeting children and teens,” the lawmakers wrote in a September 15 letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.
Despite such opposition, Mosseri said Facebook still believes in Instagram Kids, which the company announced in March as a way offer a “parent-controlled experience.”
“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,” Mosseri wrote.
Mosseri said Instagram Kids, which is designed to be ad-free, is geared to children between the ages of 10 and 12. It also would require parental permission to join and include age-appropriate content and features.
“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,” he said.
Facebook disputes recent reports in the Wall Street Journal based on internal communications at the company that the technology giant is aware Instagram can be harmful for some teen users.
“It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls,” Pratiti Raychoudhury, head of research at Facebook, said in a blog post this weekend.
Some child advocacy groups questioned if Facebook’s move to suspend Instagram Kids is a sincere effort to reckon with criticism of the platform.
“Make no mistake that they are still going to try to build it,” Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, a nonprofit group that advises parents and schools on technology, said in a statement. “Their announcement that they are ‘pausing’ plans so that they can instead try to convince parents and anyone who will listen that there is a need for social media for kids under 13 is further proof that they don’t care about the harmful impacts social media has on the development of kids.”
CBS News’ Dan Patterson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.