Instagram Announces New Teen Safety Measures Ahead Of Senate Hearing

by Julie Scagell
Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto/Getty

The announcement comes one day before its head is scheduled to testify before Congress

Instagram has finally responded to concerns that their app isn’t safe for kids by announcing new features just one day before their CEO Adam Mosseri, testifies before Congress about the app’s impact on kids and teens.

According to Mosseri, the beyond popular photo-sharing service will now include tools to help users manage the amount of time they spend on the app, offer limits on both” unwanted interactions with adults and exposure to sensitive content,” and offer optional oversight for parents of kids using the app.

Mosseri is set to testify tomorrow before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. Among other things, he’s expected to be questioned about reports that Instagram knows the harm it causes to its young users, much of this coming after a whistleblower detailed internal reports that the company new about causing mental and emotional issues in teens.

Additionally, the new safety measures will block users from tagging or mentioning teens who don’t follow them, bulk-delete their own photos, videos, and comments, and let parents set limits on the amount of time they can spend on the app. It will also roll out an “educational hub” for parents to learn more about the service and how to talk to their kids about appropriate social media use.

One issue with the new changes is that they are all “opt-in,” so they are all automatically turned off to begin. This “puts the onus on the teen users and potentially their parents to engage in this form of self-regulation,” said Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor in the department of communication at Cornell University. “It deflects responsibility from the platform.”

“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 in a blog post announcing the new features. “I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram. We’ll continue doing research, consulting with experts, and testing new concepts to better serve teens.”

Some, however, feel this is too little too late. “Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the top Republican on the subcommittee who will be running the hearing. “This is a hollow ‘product announcement’ in the dead of night that will do little to substantively make their products safer for kids and teens.”