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Facebook, Instagram roll out new tools to manage time online

By Sommer Brokaw
Facebook, Instagram roll out new tools to manage time online
Facebook announced new user tools Wednesday designed to manage a user's time online more effectively and guard against overuse. Photo by Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA-EFE

Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Facebook announced new tools Wednesday designed to help users manage their time online, amid concerns from mental health experts about potential overuse.

The new tools for Facebook and Instagram include a daily reminder that gives users an alert when they've reached the allotted amount of time, and a "Mute Push Notifications" setting to stop notifications when not needed.

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The new tools can be accessed in the settings page of Instagram under "Your Activity," or Facebook, under "Your Time on Facebook," a joint statement from Instagram Product Management Director Ameet Ranadive and Facebook Director of Research David Ginsberg said.

"We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organizations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community," the statement said. "We want the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring.

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"Our hope is 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."

Facebook owns Instagram.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in January one of Facebook's main focuses this year was "making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent."

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Google and Apple, two chief competitors to Facebook and Instagram, also have features to limit screen time.

Some critics say the new time limit tools aren't enough to address child safety concerns.

"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," Laura Randall, associate head of online child safety for Britain's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said.

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"Time limits do not address the fact that there are still no consistent child safety standards in place."

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