Facebook is planning to introduce new measures to make its platforms safer for children amid increasing pressure over its effect on young users’ mental health.
One of these is a new feature called “Take a Break” on Instagram, along with “nudging” teenagers away from content that could be harmful if they’re looking at it too often.
Here’s what to know about the planned Instagram features.
What Is the Planned “Take a Break” Feature?
Facebook says it wants to play its part in ensuring that young Instagram users don’t spend too much time on the app, so it will be launching a Take a Break feature. The feature will encourage teens to step away from using the app temporarily.
Facebook VP for Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg explained the feature in an interview with CNN:
We’re introducing something called ‘Take a Break’ where we will be prompting teens to simply just take a break from using Instagram.
Not only has Facebook been attracting criticism for its plans to launch a children’s version of its Instagram app, but it is currently under scrutiny by US lawmakers regarding Facebook’s impact on the mental health of its younger users.
This feature could possibly address those concerns.
Nudging Teens Away From Potentially Harmful Content
In addition to prompts to take a break, Facebook will nudge teens away from content that is potentially harmful. When Facebook’s systems alert it that a young user is repeatedly viewing or engaging with content that is potentially harmful, Facebook will step in to “nudge” the teen away from that content and turn their attention towards other content.
Here’s how Clegg explained it:
We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that the teenager is looking at the same content over and over again and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well-being, we will nudge them to look at other content.
Why Is Facebook Introducing These Features?
In October 2021, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen appeared in an interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, claiming that Facebook is harming teens on its Instagram app.
Haugen is the whistleblower behind the Wall Street Journal’s bombshell report known as The Facebook Files.
The measures announced by Facebook seem to be an attempt to fix the PR storm erupting from the files and Haugen’s interview.
Is Facebook Doing Enough to Protect Children Using Its Platforms?
While Facebook is doing something to help reduce the harm it allegedly causes children on its platforms, these new measures fall short of making a real impact.
If Facebook wants to effect real change in protecting children on its platforms, it needs to reconsider whether children should even be allowed to use platforms like Instagram.
Facebook should also work on fixing its algorithms to ensure that they don’t show children content that may be potentially harmful.
For instance, since Facebook is aware of what type of content is potentially harmful, it should work on not showing that content to children in the first place, instead of intervening after it has been viewed multiple times.
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