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Instagram will start nudging teens away from content they continuously browse through

Instagram will start nudging teens away from content they continuously browse through


It’s meant to keep teens from dwelling on a particular topic

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

After Instagram announced a new initiative meant to “nudge” teen users away from harmful content last year, the platform says it’s finally rolling out the feature in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. If a teen’s spending too long on Instagram’s Explore page looking at posts with a particular theme, the platform will display a notification suggesting that they look at other types of posts instead.

Instagram says the feature “is designed to encourage teens to discover something new and excludes certain topics that may be associated with appearance comparison.” As shown in an image of the feature, users will receive a notification that prompts them to “Choose what to explore next” with a variety of posts they can choose from instead. Tapping into a post will let users scroll through a different stream of content that isn’t related to the topic the teen was previously looking at.

Image: Instagram

An external study cited by Instagram indicates that 58.2 percent of respondents “agreed or strongly agreed that nudges made their social media experience better by helping them become more mindful of their time on-platform.” Instagram says its own test of the feature shows a similar trend — over a one-week period, Instagram saw one in five users switch topics when they received a nudge.

“We want to make sure people feel good about the time that they spend on Instagram... This is a way to softly encourage that,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an interview on CBS Mornings. “No matter what topic you’re going deep into, if you’re going particularly deep, we let you know, and we suggest some other topics.”

Users will receive nudges no matter what topic they’re scrolling through, harmful or not. “The notification shows up after scrolling on any topic for a number of consecutive posts,” Instagram spokesperson Liza Crenshaw explained in an emailed statement to The Verge. “But, what we include in the recommendations of what to switch to excludes content that may be associated with appearance comparison.”

Instagram is also working to bring its Take a Break feature, which encourages teens to spend time outside of Instagram, to Reels in a more interactive way. The platform’s testing reminders to turn on the Take a Break feature if a teen has been scrolling through reels for a while — the reminders will display reels from creators including  @foodwithsoy@abraxaxs, and @mayasideas, suggesting they may appear in line with other reels rather than as a separate notification. It is currently testing the feature in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and plans to roll it out widely “later this summer.”

Lastly, Instagram is making some adjustments to its existing parental controls. The platform will now let parents send invites to their kids asking to gain access to parental supervision tools, something only teens were previously able to initiate. Parents can also see information on what types of posts or accounts their child reports, as well as gain more control over the time their teen spends on Instagram.

Instagram faced intense criticism after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen came forward with a set of leaked documents that have come to be known as the “Facebook Papers.” Leaked internal research suggests that Instagram’s parent company, Facebook (now Meta), is aware of the negative impact it has on young users — especially teenage girls who continually scroll through images of people with “ideal” bodies. While some teens reported feeling “addicted” to Instagram in the internal studies, others said it exacerbated their anxiety and body image issues.