Buckle up —Facebook is creating a new Instagram app just for kids.
The announcement, aimed at getting the popular app into the hands of the younger users, was made internally and verified by BuzzFeed News.
“I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list,” Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, wrote. “We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”
The popular photo sharing platform's current policy prohibits users under the age of 13.
“Increasingly kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends,” a Facebook company spokesperson told TODAY Parents. “Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products — like we did with Messenger Kids — that are suitable for kids, managed by parents. We’re exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more.”
Messenger Kids, released in 2017, has drawn mixed reviews. Some parents say the app allows their children to communicate with friends and family, but the platform has drawn widespread criticism from health experts who say children are not old enough to navigate social spaces. In 2019, a glitch at Facebook allowed Messenger Kids users to join chats with strangers.
“We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats,” a Facebook representative told The Verge in July 2019. “We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”
Reaction on social media to Facebook’s latest Instagram Kids announcement was largely negative. Parents raised flags about the impact on kids’ mental health, safety from pedophiles, and targeted advertising.
Other parents looked at the positive aspect of the announcement.
“Social media is now a key tool to connect and communicate with each other. Human interaction is an important part of a child's development. Teaching them early how to interact online may save the issues that are currently being seen with social media and mental health,” Twitter user Julie Maclean wrote.
An official launch date for the new app has not been set.