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Do you know how much time you spend on social media? What about the children in your care? Instagram users may have noticed a recent addition to the app with the launch of the platform’s Take a Break feature. This opt-in feature will prompt users to ‘step away’ from the app after an agreed-upon time frame (e.g., 10 minutes) and engage with other activities outside of the app – and device.

Instagram App Icon

Instagram says this feature will help empower users to make informed decisions on how they spend their time. It comes after the platform has faced ongoing criticism about how it impacts users. Leaked documents have alleged several wrongdoings, including its parent company Meta (previously known as Facebook) being aware of the negative impacts the app has on young people’s mental health.

On Wednesday 8th, the same day that Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri appeared before the Senate Subcommittee to address accusations, the Take a Break feature was launched across several countries, including the UK, Ireland, and America. It’s scheduled to be launched globally in early 2022.

Instagram take a break feature

Take a Break Feature Facts

  • Users can choose to enable the feature and select to be alerted to ‘Take a Break’ after 10, 20, or 30 minutes.
  • Users will be prompted to turn on these reminders on when they open the app. During beta testing of the feature, around 90% of users kept the reminders enabled.
  • Users will be given a list of alternative activities to do on the break, such as ‘go for a walk’, ‘listen to some music’, or ‘write down what you’re thinking’.
Instagram take a break steps

The ‘Take A Break’ feature builds on the existing time management tools on Instagram, including the Daily Limit feature. This warns users when they’ve reached their chosen amount of time to spend on the platform while also offering the ability to mute notifications.

How To Turn Take a Break On

  • Tap on the three lines in the top right corner of your profile.
  • Tap on ‘Your Activity’.
  • Select the ‘Time tab’ at the top.
  • Scroll down and tap on the ‘Set Reminder to take breaks’ option.
  • Select your time and hit ‘Done’.

Reels Replies

In yet another bid to draw users away from TikTok, Instagram users can now reply to comments on all their posts with Reels (short-form videos lasting no longer than 60 seconds). They are hoping this will boost more original engagement with the platform.

This is almost identical to the feature TikTok released last summer.

Instagram Reel replies

Upcoming Features

Although only Take a Break has launched so far, Instagram have announced a range of other upcoming new features. There are no set launch dates scheduled for these features yet, but here’s what we know about them:

Parental Controls

This feature will allow parents and carers to view how much time the young person in their care is spending on Instagram and to set time limits.
Young people will also be given the option to notify their parents and carers if they have reported someone on the app. This means parents/carers can be made aware by their young person if they have experienced a situation requiring action to be taken, that in turn could enable them to start a supporting conversation about what they have experienced.
While it has not yet been clarified, this feature is likely to require the young person to opt-in and give permission for parental controls.

Educational Hub

Instagram are developing a new educational hub for parents and guardians that will include resources, product tutorials, and tips to help them discuss social media use with the young people in their care.

Digital Footprint

This tool will show users their online social media ‘footprint’ – what they’ve shared online, what other users can see, etc. It will allow users to delete content, like photos, videos, and previous comments or engagements they have made on other people’s posts.

This feature is expected to be widely available sometime in January 2022.

Will These Features Help Young People?

Although these features seem to be a ‘safeguarding step’ in the right direction, it’s important to realise that no feature is fool proof. There are many ways children and young people can get around them. In some cases, it is as easy as selecting ‘Ignore.’

Features like Take a Break only work if users participate and engage with them. Prompts are easily ignored and dismissed – think of how many times you’ve pressed snooze on your alarm clock, only to press it again when it goes off!

For many young people, using Instagram (and similar apps) is an easy, fun and enjoyable activity. To encourage a young person to develop a healthy relationship with screen time, the best exchange is an equally easy, enjoyable activity. This is worth keeping in mind while trying to offer alternative suggestions for a young person to ‘take a break.’

Although the ‘Take a Break’ feature does suggest alternative activities, it doesn’t inform users why they should take a break from scrolling on the app. Young people may not realise that some online content or too much screen time can have negative consequences, such as affecting mental health. They also may not know that other activities, like going for a walk or writing down what they’re thinking, can benefit them physically and mentally.

teenage girl on her phone, worried looking parent

Top Tips

  • Discuss with the young person in your care why taking a break from social media – and other screen devices – is important. You’ll find further resources on this here.
  • Look at new features together. Why not try a challenge to see who can take the most ‘take a break’ breaks this week?
  • Create a list together of alternative activities the young person in your care might enjoy doing away from screens. These could be activities you do together or ones they can do independently. Try to choose activities that will be easy to facilitate and set up so they’re ready to go when it’s ‘take a break’ time.
  • Use the changes to Instagram to facilitate a conversation about reviewing all privacy and safety settings together.
  • Check in with the young person in your care to make sure they have a plan for what to do if they come across something that is worrying or distressing online. Remind them that they can talk to you or another trusted adult who can help them.

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