Facebook is building an instagram app for kids under 13, led by the former head of YouTube Kids

Instagram app
The log of the Instagram app on a smartphone.

  • Facebook is building an Instagram app for kids under 13, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.
  • The project will be led by Pavni Diwanji, who previously led YouTube’s kid-focused products.
  • Facebook has faced backlash over the safety and mental health impacts of such products.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook-owned Instagram is planning to build a version of its app targeted specifically toward children under 13, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.

“We have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list, Instagram vice president of product Vishal Shah said in an internal memo, according to BuzzFeed.

“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time,” Shah added, according to BuzzFeed.

Currently, Instagram policies prohibit children under 13 from using the app, though a parent or manager can manage an account on their behalf.

BuzzFeed News reported the kid-focused version will be overseen by Instagram head Adam Mosseri and led by Pavni Diwanji, a Facebook vice president who previously led YouTube Kids and other child-focused products at the Google subsidiary.

“Increasingly kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends. Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products – like we did with Messenger Kids – that are suitable for kids, managed by parents,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

We’re exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more,” they added.

But Facebook’s push to draw young children into its app ecosystem is likely to draw scrutiny given its track record on privacy, preventing abuse and harassment, and scandals involving its Messenger Kids app.

BuzzFeed’s report comes just days after Instagram published a blog post introducing new child safety features, including AI-powered tools to guess users’ ages – despite acknowledging “verifying people’s age online is complex and something many in our industry are grappling with.”

Facebook’s stepped-up efforts to protect children follow years of reports that rampant bullying, child sex abuse material, and child exploitation exists on its platform, and some research suggests the problem may be getting worse.

A November report by the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found Instagram was the most widely used platform in child grooming cases in the early months of the pandemic, being used in 37% of cases, up from 29% in the past three years. The US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in 2020, Facebook and its family of apps reported 20.3 million instances of possible child abuse on their platforms.

Facebook said in January that its AI systems “proactively” catch 99% of child exploitation content before it’s reported by users or researchers – however, that number doesn’t account for content that goes unreported.

In 2019, a privacy flaw in Facebook’s Messenger Kids app also allowed thousands of children to enter chats with strangers, and Facebook secretly built an app that paid teens to give it extensive access to their phone and internet usage data, before Apple forced Facebook to shutter the app for violating its App Store policies.

That same year, the Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine over privacy violations – though privacy advocates have argued that it did little to prevent Facebook from scooping up user data.

Other tech platforms have had missteps as well when it comes to protecting children’s privacy online. Google reached a $170 million settlement with the FTC to settle allegations that YouTube illegally collected kids’ data without their parents consent. In September, a British researcher filed a $3 billion lawsuit against YouTube, alleging it illegally showed “addictive” content at children under the age of 13 and harvested their data for targeted ads.

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How to turn off active status on Facebook and Messenger to appear offline everywhere you’re logged in

friends holding smartphones sitting outside texting
If you want to appear offline on Facebook, you need to change your active status settings everywhere you’re logged into Facebook.

  • You can turn off your active status on the Facebook website, Facebook mobile app, and Messenger mobile app.
  • When your active status is turned off, you will appear offline even when you’re online.
  • You can also choose to appear offline only for certain people that you select.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Facebook may be responsible for putting the word “social” in social media, but there are times when you don’t want – or don’t have time – to engage with friends.

If you want to log into Facebook without your friends knowing you’re online, you can easily turn off your “active status” so you appear offline.

There are three different places where you can control your active status: on Facebook in a web browser, in the Facebook mobile app, and in the Facebook Messenger mobile app.

How to log out of your Facebook account on every device, or on all devices at once from your account settingsHow to create a Facebook business page for your company, brand, or communityHow to delete or unpublish a Facebook page on your desktop or mobile deviceDoes Facebook listen to you? Here’s what you need to know

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