Instagram will encourage teenagers to take breaks after a series of damaging revelations about the social media app, Facebook’s head of global affairs Sir Nick Clegg has announced.

Sir Nick said Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, would also nudge young users away from images that might harm their mental health and allow parents to supervise their children’s activity.

In an interview with CNN, Sir Nick said: “We can’t change human nature, but we can change our product, which is exactly what we’re doing.”

Facebook is on the back foot after a former employee leaked internal research which claimed the company is aware of its often negative impact on teenagers’ wellbeing, particularly regarding body image issues.

Last week, Frances Haugen, the whistleblower, told US politicians that Facebook prioritises profits over safety and said it needs more regulation. Senators compared the crisis to a “big tobacco moment” and promised to rein in the company.

Sir Nick insisted that “for the overwhelming majority of teenagers Instagram is a positive experience” but said that limiting excessive use and harmful material would “make a considerable difference”.

He said that a version of Instagram for under-13s, which Facebook recently suspended work on, would ultimately be helpful.

Sir Nick said: “We actually think that’s part of the solution.”

The former deputy prime minister also pushed back on claims that Facebook’s algorithms are spreading hate speech, after Ms Haugen said the service would be safer if users saw posts in chronological order. 

He said: “If you removed the algorithm people would see more not less hate speech.” He added that Facebook was testing ways of reducing political content in its news feed.

Ms Haugen will pile more pressure on Facebook later this month when she gives evidence to Parliament. She is due to appear in front of the Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill, which is examining the Government’s upcoming legislation for social media companies, on October 25.

Damian Collins, a Conservative MP and chairman of the committee, said: “Frances Haugen’s evidence has so far strengthened the case for an independent regulator with the power to audit and inspect the big tech companies.”