Instagram quietly bumps up the minimum daily time limit

The app is reportedly nudging some users to increase their time limit to at least 30 minutes.

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Kris Holt
February 21, 2022 9:21 PM
Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018.  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Dado Ruvic / Reuters

For the last couple years, Instagram and Facebook have offered ways to see how long you spend using the apps each day as well as an option to set a daily usage time limit. Now, it seems Instagram has increased the minimum daily time limit setting to 30 minutes, up from 10 or 15 minutes.

An Instagram user told TechCrunch that the app asked them to "set a new value" for their daily time limit, though noted that they could retain their existing setting. "The available values for daily time limits are changing as part of an app update," a pop-up read. The Instagram app currently offers me a minimum time limit of 30 minutes. 

The settings in the Facebook app are more granular. Users can choose any time limit in increments of five minutes. When a user reaches their chosen time limit in either app, a notification pops up to tell them, though they can ignore it.  

At the time it rolled out the feature, Meta said the idea was to give people more control over the length of time they spend on its apps and to "foster conversations between parents and teens" about healthy online habits. In November, Instagram started testing a "Take a Break" feature to remind users, particularly teens, to put down their phone every so often.

Meta didn't answer Engadget's questions about when and why Instagram made the daily time limit change. It pointed to a tweet noting that the Take a Break feature can remind users to leave the app as often as every 10 minutes.

In any case, it's interesting that Meta made the time limit change soon after it emerged Facebook daily active users dropped for the first time last quarter. User growth across the family of apps (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) remained almost flat.

Meta expects slower revenue growth this year due to more competition for people's time and users paying more attention to features that generate less revenue, such as Reels. Upping the time limit, and keeping users scrolling through Instagram and viewing ads for longer, could be one way of counterbalancing those revenue concerns.

It remains to be seen what politicians may make of the move. In October, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Meta (which was still called Facebook at the time) "knows its products can be addictive and toxic to children." Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate with the aim of asking the Federal Trade Commission to study ways to reduce "the harm of algorithmic amplification and social media addiction on covered platforms."

Update 2/22 10:42AM ET: Added context from Meta.

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