Just a day before the head of Instagram will face questions from lawmakers over its child safety practices, the company rolled out a handful of new features aimed at making it harder 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 spend some time away from the platform after they’ve been scrolling for a certain period. The feature, announced in September, will first come to users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, and to all users in the months ahead.
Users can turn on the feature in “Settings” and select if they want to be alerted after using the platform for 10 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes. They’ll then get a full-screen alert telling them to close out of the app, suggesting they take a deep breath, write something down, check a to-do list or listen to a song.
CNN Business tested the feature ahead of launch; while it’s a step in the right direction, there’s still room for improvement.
For example, users have to stay on the platform for one continuous session. If the app closes while you run to the bathroom or the screen turns off while you briefly browse Netflix, the timer resets. After the prompt encourages a break, the onus is on the user to resist hitting the big “done” at the bottom of the message to return to the app.
Vaishnavi J, Instagram’s head of safety and well-being, said the feature is still in its early stages and will expand its functionality in 2022.
Instagram also said it will take a “stricter approach” to what content it recommends to teenagers and actively nudge them toward different topics if they’ve been dwelling on something — any type of content — for too long. While the company said it’ll share more about the feature soon, a screenshot shared with CNN Business ahead of the announcement revealed that topics such as travel destinations, architecture and nature photography will be used to divert attention. The feature will launch next year.
Read more about the features here.