Instagram was so concerned about losing teen users a year ago that it decided to devote a significant portion of its marketing budget to reaching out to them. This report was based on anonymous sources and internal documents and was published in The New York Times. “If we lose the teen foothold in the US, we lose the pipeline,” one company memo stated.
When a former product engineer named Frances Haugen leaked documents to The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Facebook, which bought Instagram for a reported $1 billion in 2012, received some negative press.
Based on the documents, Facebook’s own researchers discovered that Instagram is “harmful for a sizable percentage” of its young users, particularly teenage girls, who can develop depression, anxiety, and body-image issues as a result of using the app.
Facebook began focusing the majority of its Instagram ad spending on teenagers In 2018
Haugen also testified in front of Congress, claiming that Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.” Apart from Instagram and Facebook, the latter also owns WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which are messaging apps. Snapchat competes with Instagram in the teen market.
Facebook claims that the media and the general public are misrepresenting its internal research. According to the article, the study found that teens benefited from using Instagram.
Teenagers told the company’s researchers that they use the app “when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues that teenagers have always faced,” according to the company.
Starting in 2018, the majority of Instagram’s annual global marketing budget was devoted to messaging aimed at teenagers, and the year’s budget is $390 million.
A Facebook spokesman stated, “While it’s not true that we focus our entire marketing budget towards teens, we’ve said many times that teens are one of our most important communities because they spot and set early trends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are a part of our marketing strategy.”
Marketers told the Times that focusing on a specific age group to the extent that Facebook does is unusual. According to the newspaper, Facebook also targeted parents and young adults with some of its advertising.
The Instagram for Kids platform, which was first mentioned in March, was halted last month
In March, it was discovered that Facebook was working on a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, who are not permitted to use the Instagram website. Instagram Kids would not be designed like the adult version of the app because it would be ad-free and controlled by parents. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 prohibits companies from collecting or storing personal data on anyone under the age of 13.
Instagram announced last month that it was halting work on the site, six months after the initial report about Instagram Kids leaked. Despite the fact that the development of a kid-friendly version of Instagram has been put on hold, Facebook still believes it “is the right thing to do.” In addition, the company stated that it will continue to work on providing teens with opt-in parental supervision. It also wants the app to display a “Take a Break” warning to remind users that it’s time to switch things up.
Instagram Kids would have also allowed parents to control how much time their children spent on the app, as well as who they followed and who followed them.
According to The New York Times, Facebook managers told employees that they are doing everything they can to prevent underage users from signing up for an Instagram account, but that these kids still find a way to do so. The Instagram Kids platform would have been targeted at children aged 10 to 12, would have required parental consent to join, and would have only “age-appropriate content and features.”