Facebook and Instagram have been making headlines ever since the company came under fire for knowing exactly how its products harm teens. After leaked documents were released to The Wall Street Journal, the US Senate summoned Facebook for a hearing titled ‘Protecting Kids Online’, to understand exactly what can be done to counter the negative impacts of social media. Now, in a move that feels like the bare-minimum, Instagram has announced that it will introduce a feature that nudges teens away from harmful content, while prompting them to take a break. The company will call this feature, ‘Nudge’.
How will the Instagram Nudge work?
Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, told CNN “We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that the teenager is looking at the same content over and over again and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well-being, we will nudge them to look at other content.”
He also added, “we’re introducing something called, ‘take a break,’ where we will be prompting teens to just simply just take a break from using Instagram.”
Is this the bare minimum?
Based on Clegg’s comments, one can surmise that this feature is currently in development, with developers identifying and designing parameters to help teens avoid harmful content. However, one could argue that the subjective nature of the term increases the scope for children to fall through the system’s cracks. Barring content with obvious red flags, it is unclear how developers will identify content that’s harming the psyche of a teen, especially when you consider that something as basic as looking at an advertisement online can also inspire eating disorders in those who are prone to them.
The addictive nature of social media is pretty evident. As such, a simple prompt asking users to ‘take a break’ may be effective for momentary pauses from scrolling, but may not be sufficient enough to actually combat issues like social media dependency. This prompt is akin to Twitter’s new prompt (discussed here). People may take note of the reminder the first few times, but might eventually be desensitised and ignore the same.
While brainstorming measures to protect teens is of paramount importance, it’s equally important for these social media platforms to proactively think of measures that have lasting effects.