Facebook is pausing plans to build an “Instagram for kids” and instead focus on teen safety and parental supervision features for its younger users.
Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communication, studies the intersection of media, culture and technology. Duffy believes this shifted focus is an attempt to mitigate public concerns.
“Platforms have recently sought to court younger and younger users, presumably an attempt to remain relevant in a cultural moment dominated by TikTok. Instagram has received considerable backlash for its pursuit of teens. This was especially the case after investigative reports confirmed that company leaders knew of its potential negative impact on mental health. The stated focus on ‘safety’ features is an attempt to mitigate public concerns that platform users have little recourse in the face of networked hate, harassment and trolling.
“Crucially, members of marginalized communities — women, people of color, LGBTQ+, among others — are especially vulnerable to these expressions. Not only do they report that platforms fail to protect them, but moreover, that platforms may algorithmically privilege such negativity.
“In the end, it remains to be seen whether the new features will lead to lasting change, or whether the announcement is mere lip service at a critical juncture.”
Natalie Bazarova, associate professor, examines social-psychological and communication processes in social media and mobile interactions. Bazarova explores how children can learn to navigate the online world.
"A more fundamental issue spotlighted by this controversy is about children's readiness for social media sites and apps and how to support their stepping into the online world. What can parents, educators, and the tech industry do to support this transition, and how to help young people not just to survive, but to thrive in ‘social media jungles’?
“Social Media Lab has developed a free and safe platform called Social Media TestDrive to teach young people ‘rules of the road’ through experiential learning in a simulated social media environment. Learning how to respond when you see cyberbullying, how to positively shape a digital footprint, what is safe to share online, and how to protect your privacy are some of the lessons children can learn before they step out into a real social media platform.”