Just a day before the Instagram chief faced questions from lawmakers about his children’s safety practices, the company released a handful of new features aimed at making it harder for users, especially teens, to fall into “rabbit holes” that could harm your brain. the health.
On Tuesday, the company launched a Take a Break tool, which will encourage users to spend time away from the platform after a certain period of use. The feature, announced in September, will reach users in the US, UK, Canada and Australia for the first time, and all users in the coming months.
Users in these countries can activate the feature under Settings and decide if they want to be alerted after using the platform for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. They will then receive a full-screen alert telling them to close the app, and suggesting that they take a deep breath, write something, check their to-do list, or listen to a song.
CNN Business tested the feature before launch; Although it is a step in the right direction, there is still room for improvement.
For example, users need to stay on the platform for one continuous session. If the app closes while running to the bathroom or the screen turns off while browsing Netflix for a while, the timer will reset.
Once a prompt encourages pause, it is the user’s responsibility to resist clicking the big “Done” at the bottom of the message to return to the app.
Vaishnavi J, Instagram’s head of security and wellness, said the feature is still in its early stages and will expand its functionality in 2022.
Instagram has also said it will take a “harder approach” to content recommended by teens and actively push them toward different topics if they’ve been sticking to something – any type of content – for too long.
While the company said it would share more about the feature soon, a screenshot shared with CNN Business prior to the announcement revealed that topics such as travel destinations, architecture and landscape photography will be used to divert attention. The feature will be released next year.
The features build on Instagram’s existing time management tools, such as those that let people know when they’ve reached the total time they’d like to spend on Instagram each day. The company said it’s also testing a new way for people to manage their Instagram activities in one place, allowing them to collectively delete photos and videos they’ve posted, as well as previous likes and comments.
“While it is available to everyone, I think this tool is especially important for teens to fully understand the information they have shared on Instagram, which is visible to others and have an easier way to manage their digital footprint,” Adam Mosseri, Instagram President wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
The company is also creating a learning hub for parents with expert advice to help them discuss social media use with teens, as well as being able to see how much time their kids spend on Instagram and set time limits.
The issue of social media’s impact on teens gained renewed attention this fall after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked hundreds of internal documents, some of which showed the company knew how Instagram could harm mental health and body image, especially among teens.
Facebook has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen and said that his testimony in Congress and reports about the documents mischaracterize the company’s actions.
But the uproar of Haugen’s disclosures pressured the company to reconsider launching an Instagram app for children under the age of 13.
The revelations also helped spur a series of congressional hearings on how tech products affect children, which includes Facebook executives TikTok and Snapchat parent Snap.
On Wednesday, Mosseri will appear in a Senate subcommittee as lawmakers question the app’s impact on the mental health of young users.
Members of Congress have shown rare bipartisan cooperation when criticizing tech companies on the issue.
Some lawmakers are now pushing for legislation aimed at increasing children’s online privacy and reducing apparent reliance on multiple platforms – although it’s unclear when or if such legislation will pass.
Earlier last year, TikTok introduced new features to allow users to control screen time, such as videos from top creators appearing in feeds to encourage users to take a break and do something in real life.
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