Months after a Facebook whistleblower raised worries about the platform’s impact on younger users, Instagram is releasing new tools that parents can use to help monitor and limit their children’s use of the photo-sharing app.
The features, which were published on Wednesday, allow parents to see how much time their children spend on Instagram and set time limits for them, as well as check whose profiles they follow or are followed by. Parents in the United States can now use the services, with ambitions to expand globally in the coming months.
The new options were first introduced in a blog post by Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri late last year, along with several features intended specifically for teen users at the time, such as one that encouraged users to take a break from the app after a set length of time.
Last year, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed hundreds of internal documents, including ones that showed the business was aware of the ways Instagram can harm mental health and body image, especially among adolescent females. In hearings, lawmakers grilled Facebook and Instagram officials about these and other details from the documents, and Instagram postponed plans to release a version of the app for children under the age of 13.
Mosseri noted in a blog post on Wednesday that the new capabilities include the opportunity for parents and guardians to receive notifications when their adolescent posts that they have reported someone on the app. In the coming months, parents will be able to do things like limit the amount of time their adolescent can use the app during certain hours of the day.
For the time being, Mosseri added, teenagers will have to start the Instagram monitoring process on their smartphone or tablet. Beginning in June, adults will be able to seek the supervision of their teenager’s account via the mobile app or website, though teens will still need to approve the request before it is granted.
The capabilities are part of an online “Family Center” being developed by Instagram’s parent company, Meta, with the goal of eventually having a single spot where parents can monitor how their children use Meta’s different apps and services.
Meta’s virtual-reality devices and platform will also get new parental controls. Parents will soon be able to lock access to apps that they don’t want their children to use, according to an Oculus blog post (a special unlock pattern will be required to open the app). Parents will be able to check how much time their teenager spends using VR via the Oculus app in the coming months.