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Instagram introduces safety tools for teens ahead of Senate hearing

By Ishika Dangayach on Dec 07, 2021 | 05:37 AM IST

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Instagram will allow parents to have more control over how long their children use the app

The social media app is debuting 'Take a Break' feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia

Instagram announced on Tuesday some new tools and features aimed to keep young people even safer on the social media platform.  

The social networking giant revealed a number of adjustments for young users in a blog post. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said that the new feature will stop people from tagging or mentioning teens that don’t follow them. 

The network, which is owned by Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook Inc., will allow parents to have more control over how long their children use the app. In addition, beginning in January, all users can bulk delete content they’ve posted like photos and videos, as well as their previous likes and comments.

The new feature came a day before Adam Mosseri will testify before the Senate's consumer protection panel on Wednesday for the first time on problems the social media app is causing on young users’ mental health.

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The picture-sharing app also stated that it will be debuting its 'Take a Break' feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia on Tuesday, which will empower people to make informed decisions about how they’re spending their time, the blog post stated. 

Instagram said it will introduce its first tools for parents and guardians to check how much time their teens spend on the platform and impose time limits in March of next year.

According to an article published in The Wall Street Journal in September, internal research discovered that Instagram is hazardous for a substantial number of young users, particularly adolescent females with body-image problems Moreover, the internal document leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen stated that among teenagers who expressed suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users blamed it on Instagram

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The blog post also stated that the site is expanding the “Limit Even More” state beyond Explore for teens. This will make it more difficult for teens to come across potentially harmful or sensitive content or accounts in Search, Explore, Hashtags, Reels, and Suggested Accounts.

Take a Break feature 

Instagram, the picture-sharing network is developing a new feature that will allow users to take a short break from the app. The feature is named "Take a Break," and it allows users to walk away from the social media network after a certain length of time.

Instagram users may also choose to be reminded to take a break after spending 10, 20, or 30 minutes on the app in a row, according to a blog post published on Tuesday.

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The social media app will be “nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time,” according to Mosseri. 

“Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers and content-control features that consumer should have had all along,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), a member of the Senate consumer protection subcommittee, in a statement, WSJ reported. “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.”

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U.S state attorneys general probe 

Last month, a coalition of state attorneys general from around the United States initiated a probe into Instagram's attempts to involve minors and young adults.

The attorneys general are looking into whether the corporation violated consumer protection rules and endangered young people.

"Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement.

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Instagram, like other social networking platforms, has restrictions prohibiting minors under the age of 13 from accessing the website, yet it has admitted that it has users of this age.

In September, the business announced a halt to its plans for a children's version of Instagram, amid mounting pressure from lawmakers.

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