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Facebook Pauses Development of Instagram for Kids After Pushback

MENLO PARK (AP/CBS SF) -- Facebook is putting a hold on the development of a kids' version of Instagram, geared toward children under 13, to address concerns that have been raised about the vulnerability of younger users.

The company has been facing criticism after studies revealed the social media giant knew its platform could negatively impact teens.

An investigative series by The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook was aware that the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety.

The development of Instagram for a younger audience was met with broader opposition almost immediately.

Facebook first announced plans to develop a version of Instagram for children in March, saying at the time that it was "exploring a parent-controlled experience." Two months later, a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the project, citing the well being of children.

They cited increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators, and what they called Facebook's "checkered record" in protecting children on its platforms. Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.

Josh Golin, executive director of children's digital advocacy group Fairplay, urged the company Monday to permanently pull the plug on the app. So did a group of Democratic members of Congress.

Instagram and Facebook representatives say they are taking time to discuss concerns with parents, experts, policy makers, and regulators.

A Senate subcommittee is set to hold a hearing Thursday on how social media impacts the mental health of children.

While work is being paused on Instagram Kids, the company will be expanding opt-in parental supervision tools to teen accounts of those 13 and older. More details on these tools will be disclosed in the coming months, Mosseri said.

This isn't the first time Facebook has received backlash for a product aimed at children. Child development experts urged the company to shut down its Messenger Kids app in 2018, saying it was not responding to a "need" as Facebook insisted but creating one instead.

In that case, Facebook went ahead with the app.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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