Illustration: Olivier Douliery / AFP (Getty Images)
Instagram wants you to know it really cares about teens’ mental health and safety, despite everything you may have heard. In fact, it’s rolling out a slew of new tools and features it says will protect teens that use its app.
Company head Adam Mosseri unveiled the new features for teens and parents in a blog post on Tuesday, one day before he’s set to testify before Congress, and also included measures the app will take to promote safety. Instagram’s announcement around teens comes amidst a public reckoning over its failure to protect its youngest users, even though it knew the app affected their mental health.
For teens, Mosseri said Instagram will be launching tools to help them “better manage” their experience on the app. This includes rolling out the previously announced “Take a Break” feature, which encourages young users to close Instagram if they’ve spent too much time on it, to the U.S., UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The feature was available to users in these countries on Tuesday.
Teens will also be able to delete content they’ve posted in bulk, including photos, videos, likes, and comments. Mosseri said this tool, which will roll out in January for all users, will allow teens to “manage their digital footprint” and help them understand what information others can see about them. I will give Instagram credit on this one. Everyone says and does stupid things when they’re young (or not so young), and they should be able to take quick action to rectify and learn from those mistakes.
In addition to features for teens, Instagram will unveil its first features and tools for parents and guardians in March that will let them “guide and support their teens” on the app. This mainly seems to consist of reports on how much time individual teens spend on Instagram and the option to limit their time on the app, according to the blog post. Teens will also have the option to have the app notify their parents when they report someone.
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Finally, Mosseri laid out what Instagram would do on its end to create a safer experience for teens on the app. He said it will prevent people from tagging or mentioning teens on the platform if the teens don’t follow them and “be stricter” about what it recommends to teens in various parts of the app, such as Explore, Hashtags, and Suggested Accounts.
Instagram is also looking into expanding its “Limit Even More” content control feature for teens, Mosseri said, which allows users to reduce the amount of sensitive content they see in the Explore part of the app. The company is considering expanding this limitation to beyond Explore. In addition, it’s building a feature that will “nudge” users to different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one for too long.
“I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are,” Mosseri wrote. “I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”
The Instagram head added that the company would continue doing research, consulting with experts, and testing out new concepts “to better serve teens.”
Well, to clarify, the company was basically forced into better serving teens due to public pressure. And it’s still got a long way to go. On Tuesday, new research by the Tech Transparency Project found that Instagram is encouraging teens to buy drugs and connecting them with dealers.
Mosseri is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Wednesday about Instagram’s impact on teens’ mental health and wellbeing. You can watch the livestream here beginning at 2:30 ET.