Facebook hits pause on Instagram Kids as concern mounts over impact on teens

Instagram head Adam Mosseri says he still believes building the Kids version "is the right thing to do" in the long term.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
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Instagram app store page on a phone screen

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of an Instagram Kids app.

Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Instagram is pausing the development of Instagram Kids, a dedicated service it's building for children, in order to spend time focusing on developing parental supervision tools. It also intends to use the hiatus to persuade the wider world that the an Instagram app for kids is, in fact, a good and necessary thing.

The news that Instagram was working on a dedicated app for kids was first reported by Buzzfeed back in March. Instagram confirmed the service was in development, and was met with outrage from rights organizations, as well as bullying and mental health groups, which were all concerned about the impact of giving younger children access to social media. Over the past month, reporting by The Wall Street Journal raised concerns that Facebook's internal research showed Instagram to be bad for teens, which added to the pressure on the company.

But even though Instagram is suspending work on its kids app for now, it's likely such an app will still make an appearance in the future.

In a blog post published Monday, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said he still believes building Instagram Kids is "the right thing to do." As kids are already online and misrepresenting their age to access Instagram (which is only accessible to over-13s), he said that Instagram thought it best for children in the 10-12 age group to have an age-appropriate service dedicated to them. Instagram Kids will not be designed to replicate the adult version of the app, but to be ad-free and overseen directly by parents, he added.

"Our intention is not for this version to be the same as Instagram today," said Mosseri. "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."

In a followup tweet, Mosseri expanded on why Instagram decided to delay the project. Instagram Kids was leaked before the company was ready for it to be public, he said, meaning that Instagram wasn't ready to answer questions about it and allay people's fears. Following the escalation in concern sparked by The Wall Street Journal's reporting, it was clear the company needed to take more time over it, he added.

(Earlier on Monday, in a separate blog post, Facebook rebutted the Journal's stories, saying that its findings were misunderstood and misrepresented.)

Mosseri said that critics of Instagram Kids would be wrong to view the fact that the project was being put on hiatus as "an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea." Instead, the company wants to work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the "value and need" for Instagram Kids, while also continuing to build opt-in supervision tools for teens (aged 13 and over). "I hear the concerns with this project, and we're announcing these steps today so we can get it right," he said.