Expert weighs in on new Instagram child safety updates

‘Take a break’ feature expected to be available in 2022

How is social media impacting young people?

The mental health of young people scrolling through social media is in the national spotlight again.

On Tuesday, Instagram announced ways the app plans to protect young users from harmful content. On Wednesday, Instagram’s chief executive Adam Mosseri testified before a senate panel on the measures the social media platform is taking to protect young people.

Co-director of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, Sarah Clark, who is also a mother, believes progress is being made, but there is still concern.

“There’s something to be said for needing the proof for the details,” Clark said.

The updates sound good, but her worry is whether or not they will work.

“This idea about the option to set daily time limits to notify parents about daily time limits and also an option to let kids notify parents if they encounter bullying or harassment are great, but that is only with an opt in,” Clark said.

In October, C.S. Mott did a national poll with parents of children ages seven through 12 about their child’s social media use. Results show 39% of participating parents said it’s too time consuming to monitor use and 32% say kids get around parental controls.

The poll results also revealed how young children are when they start using social media.

“Half of parents of kids aged 10 to 12 said their children are using social media apps, and a third of parents of kids aged seven to nine. So some of these things we’re talking about are you know, maybe great for the older teenagers, but I think we also have to keep in mind that we want these companies thinking about a much broader age range of kids,” Clark said.

There are still problems Clark believes are not being tackled, like children not being able to decipher what is real and what is false.

“One of the things that I did kind of like was this idea of a ‘Take a Break’ feature, which may be a good strategy to get people to kind of decompress and force them off. But again, this appears to be an opt in feature,” Clark said.

Instagram’s head said the “Take a Break” feature rolled out Tuesday to the U.S., United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The rest of world will have access to it early 2022.

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About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.