Facebook and Instagram are to introduce tools to help users manage their time on the social networks, Facebook has announced. The tools will let people set themselves time limits for using the apps, mute notifications temporarily and view a dashboard showing their use. Facebook’s David Ginsberg and Instagram’s Ameet Ranadive said in a blog post: “We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organisations, academics, our extensive research and feedback from our community. We want the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring. We hope that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them.” The tools will be found in the settings page of Facebook and Instagram under the headers “Your Time on Facebook” and “Your Activity” respectively.
In January, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, declared that “making sure time spent on Facebook is time well spent” was one of the key problems facing the site, alongside “protecting our community from abuse and hate” and “defending against interference by nation states.” The company also faces competitive pressure to move quickly. Both Google and Apple have announced similar features, built into the forthcoming versions of their iOS and Android operating systems – and these can mute notifications permanently, rather than temporarily as Facebook will allow. Both Apple and Google also have “time well spent” features allowing parents to limit their children’s screen time. Facebook’s implementation of the idea is focused only on self-control.
Laura Randall, the NSPCC’s associate head of child safety online, said, “Facebook and Instagram state they want to ensure their platforms are safe but to do so they need to tackle serious problems within their sites. “Time limits do not address the fact that there are still no consistent child safety standards in place. This lack of responsibility is why the legislation the government has committed to must include a mandatory child safety code with an independent regulator to enforce consequences for those who don’t follow those rules.”
Credit: Alex Hern for The Guardian, 1 August 2018.