After Instagram announced a new initiative last year aimed at pushing teenage users away from harmful content, the platform says: it’s finally rolling out the feature in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If a teen spends too long on Instagram’s Explore page for posts with a particular theme, the platform will display a notification suggesting that they look at other types of posts instead.
Instagram says the feature is “designed to encourage teens to discover something new and exclude certain topics that could be related to outward comparison.” As seen in an image of the feature, users will receive a notification asking them to “Choose what to explore now” with a variety of messages to choose from instead. Tapping on a post allows users to scroll through a different stream of content unrelated to the topic the teen was previously looking at.
A external study quoted by Instagram indicate that 58.2 percent of respondents “agreed or strongly agreed that nudges made their social media experience better by helping them become more aware of their time on the platform.” Instagram says its own test of the feature shows a similar trend: Over a one-week period, Instagram saw one in five users switch topics when given a nudge.
“We want to make sure that people feel good about the time they spend on Instagram… This is a way to gently encourage that,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an interview on CBS Mornings† “No matter what topic you go deep into, if you go particularly deep, we’ll let you know and suggest some other topics.”
As of today, parents have more power to monitor and limit their teens’ time on Instagram and Meta VR headsets.
— CBS Mornings (@CBSM Mornings) June 14, 2022
Users get nudges regardless of what topic they scroll through, malicious or not. “The message appears after scrolling a subject for several consecutive posts,” Instagram spokesperson Liza Crenshaw said in an emailed statement to The edge† “But what do we include in the recommendations of where to switch to? exclude content that may be associated with appearance comparison.”
Instagram is also working on bringing its Take a Break feature, which encourages teens to spend time outside of Instagram, to Reels in a more interactive way. The platform’s test reminders to enable the Take a Break feature when a teen scrolls through the reels for a while – the reminders will display creator roles including @foodwithsoy† @abraxaxsand @mayasideas, suggesting they may appear in-line with other roles rather than as a separate notification. It is currently testing the feature in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and plans to roll it out widely “later this summer”.
Finally, Instagram is making some adjustments to the existing parental controls. The platform now allows parents to send invitations to their children requesting access to parental control tools, something previously only teens could access. Parents can also see information about what types of posts or accounts their child is reporting, and gain more control over the time their teen spends on Instagram.
Instagram came in for heavy criticism after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen came forward with a series of leaked documents that have come to be known as the “Facebook Papers.” Leaked internal research shows that Instagram’s parent company, Facebook (now Meta), is aware of the negative impact it has on young users – especially teenage girls who are constantly scrolling through images of people with “ideal” bodies. While some teens reported feeling “addicted” to Instagram in the internal surveys, others said it exacerbated their anxiety and body image problems.