A day before Instagram’s CEO faces questions from lawmakers about the company’s child safety practices, the company is introducing a slew of new features aimed at making it more difficult for users, particularly teenagers, to fall down rabbit holes that could be harmful to their mental health.
On Tuesday, the company launched its Take a Break tool, which will encourage users to take a break from the platform after a certain amount of scrolling. The feature, which was announced in September, will first be available to users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, before being made available to all users in the coming months.
Users can enable the feature in “Settings” and choose whether they want to be notified after 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or 30 minutes of using the platform. They will then receive a full-screen alert instructing them to exit the app.
CNN Business tested the feature before it went live; while it’s a step in the right direction, there’s still room for improvement. Users, for example, must stay on the platform for one continuous session. The timer resets if the app closes while you run to the bathroom or the screen turns off while you watch Netflix for a few minutes. After the prompt encourages a break, the user must resist clicking the big “done” button at the bottom of the message to return to the app.
According to Vaishnavi J, Instagram’s head of safety and well-being, the feature is still in its early stages and will be expanded in 2022.
Instagram also stated that it will take a “stricter approach” to what content it recommends to teenagers and will actively nudge them toward different topics if they have been dwelling on something — any type of content — for an extended period of time.
The features expand on Instagram’s existing time management tools, such as one that notifies users when they have spent the maximum amount of time they want to spend on Instagram per day. The company also stated that it is testing a new way for people to manage their Instagram activity in a single location, allowing them to bulk delete photos and videos they’ve posted, as well as previous likes and comments.
“While this tool is available to everyone, I believe it is especially important for teens to better understand what information they’ve shared on Instagram, what is visible to others, and to have an easier way to manage their digital footprint,” Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.