Can Meta Control Teenagers’ Instagram Habit?
Last week, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, was slapped with several lawsuits alleging that it willfully hooked and damaged minors on its services. As a result, meta is launching a set of time management tools on Instagram on Tuesday that will urge adolescents to switch on “Take a Break” reminders and stop watching content. However, experts are divided on whether the changes will significantly impact.
After putting the contentious “Instagram Kids” project on hold in late 2021, CEO Adam Mosseri revealed an opt-in “Take a Break” feature that allows users to set in-app reminders to stop scrolling after a specified number of minutes (quietly deleting the option to select a restriction lower than 30 minutes). In addition, Instagram added additional parental controls in March, including setting screen restrictions and receiving notifications about their children’s activities on the platform. Tuesday’s update expands on Instagram’s current capabilities and fulfills Meta’s promise to provide guardrails in VR.
In a recent Instagram upgrade, the company partnered with youth content producers to encourage adolescents to use the “Take a Break” feature. “Take a Break” was created by Soy Nguyen, known for her “eat with me” films, and Maya Penn, a climate activist. Since February 2020, TikTok has been using a similar function and has recently pushed for tighter screen time limitations. However, it’s unclear how effectively it has moved people away from the endless scroll.
“How can we ensure that the liberties and autonomy of teenagers are not jeopardized?” Geldwert was the one who inquired. “How can we avoid being condescending while both expressing and communicating the importance of turning something like this on?”
Geldwert did this by selecting creators who had already struck a chord with young people by discussing various areas of mental health. It was crucial to avoid those who were “overly sincere” or condescending while discussing these topics, according to Geldwert. If the makers successfully convince adolescents to use “Take a Break,” the app will propose activities that are not social media-related.
But how real and sincere do “take a break” notifications seem when they come from the app itself? Especially if the receiver is a rebellious adolescent already reliant on the app? According to Megan Moreno, an adolescent health researcher at the University of Wisconsin, this inconsistency might make it harder for Instagram’s anti-Instagram messaging to land.
Moreno believes that consulting with young people might help make these reminders more effective. She said teenagers are the best judges of what kind of comedy or content resonates with their friends. However, Instagram’s harshest opponents are more concerned with the program’s algorithm feeding hazardous information to youngsters than with how much time children spend on the service. Common Sense Media policy counsel Irene Ly wants Instagram to commit to changing its algorithm and installing tighter privacy safeguards by default. “Telling a youngster to take a break may reduce the time they spend on the platform,” Ly explained. “However, it won’t help them modify what they see on the platform.”