Instagram Kids on hold amid devastating Facebook mental health leaks

Instagram Kids, the version of the social network that Facebook hoped to hook children 10-12 years old on, is being put on pause, the company has confirmed today. The service, details of which leaked earlier this year, has been increasingly under fire by parents and child privacy advocates, particularly given recent revelations about Facebook's own research on how damaging social media can be to younger users.

Currently, the Instagram app is listed as intended for those aged 13 years or older. Instagram Kids, though, would be for users as young as 10, though with extra parental monitoring features baked in.

In recent weeks, however, the discussion has turned to just whether younger users are benefiting from social media. Leaks about Facebook's own research into teens and the impact of Instagram on their mental health painted an ominous picture of encouraging body image issues and more. Facebook, unsurprisingly, disagreed with how those findings had been portrayed, but today cited the WSJ report as one of the factors which led to the decision to temporarily halt work on Instagram Kids.

"I have to believe parents would prefer the option for their children to use an age-appropriate version of Instagram – that gives them oversight – than the alternative," Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, said today. "But I'm not here to downplay their concerns, we have to get this right."

That means Instagram Kids is on hold, not canceled altogether. It'll give the company "time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today." One key element Facebook highlights is that, whether it develops its new app or not, it believes younger users are still going to keep downloading Instagram – even if they have to lie about their age to do so.

"This experience was never meant for kids," Mosseri writes about the service even Facebook currently refers to as Instagram Kids. "We were designing an experience for tweens (10-12yo), and it was never going to be the same as Instagram today. Parents approve tween accounts and have oversight over who they follow, who follows them, who messages them, time spent etc."

When it does launch – assuming that actually happens – Instagram Kids will need parental permission to join, and won't include ads. It'll also include "age-appropriate content and features," Facebook insists. Parents will be able to supervise how much time children spend on the app, oversee who can follow them, who they can follow, and who can message them, and access other controls.

While that app project may be on pause, some of those features are now being distilled for the main Instagram app. Facebook says they'll be opt-in for parents and teens in the coming months.