A recent report by the Wall Street Journal cited Facebook studies that confirmed that Instagram perpetuates suicidal thoughts, body dysphoria, and other mental issues in teenage girls.
The studies were conducted over the course of three years and provided alarming conclusions, but Facebook (the owner of Instagram) has no plans to alter the site. Instead, they plan to launch a version of Instagram for kids. Because they’ve handled things so “well” this far.
What the Reports Say
Social media is still a new technology. Those of us who grew up without it don’t know what the full psychological effects could lead to, but researchers reported that “32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” This is much higher than the 14% of boys who admitted that it made them feel worse about themselves.
32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.
One Facebook slide from a 2019 internal message board stated, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” Another slide stated, “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.” And another presentation showed that “Among teens who reported having suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users said the desire to kill themselves came from Instagram.”
A Pew Research Center poll found that, in 2018, 95% of teens had access to smartphones and 72% of them said they use Instagram. With so many teenagers perusing Instagram, you would think that Facebook would show a little more concern being that their terms of service only require users to be 13 years or older.
Facebook Downplays Their Toxic Role
Instead of considering increasing the age requirement, since Instagram has so much mature content and is now proven to cause teenagers distress, Facebook is downplaying the issue. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, refuses to acknowledge these reports, even though the Wall Street Journal claims that these facts were presented to Zuckerberg in 2020.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, refuses to acknowledge these reports.
At his congressional hearing in March, when asked about children and mental health, Zuckerberg replied, “The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits.” He didn't provide evidence to back up his claims.
He also denied “at least one official request for the research from lawmakers,” claiming that the research was “proprietary” and “kept confidential to promote frank and open dialogue and brainstorming internally,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Follow the Money”
If Facebook’s own studies are contradicting its CEO’s claims, then how can the public trust that this big tech giant is working in our best interest? We can’t.
In truth, Facebook has an older user base, but more than 40% of Instagram users are 22 years old or younger. So if they increased the age requirement, profits would likely decrease. So instead of taking a cut for the health and welfare of our children, Zuckerberg and his company are set to roll out Instagram Kids. This will help them tap into the younger market and ignore evidence of any harm done. It seems perfect for their current image as a social media giant that doesn’t care if their platform contributes to mental health issues.
Can Parents Really Trust Instagram for Kids?
Facebook has vowed that this new venture will “give kids a more contained environment that makes it simpler and more fun for them to explore on their own, and easier for parents and caregivers to guide their journey.”
35 child-advocacy groups and 64 experts have warned of the “great risk” this poses to children.
But a global coalition of 35 child-advocacy groups and 64 experts have warned of the “great risk” this poses to children. From concerns over child predators posing as children to “the platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding,” many argue that it’s a recipe for disaster which creates new “challenges to adolescents’ privacy and well-being.”
Facebook has clearly proven that it doesn’t care what the data says. It only sees our teenagers as users to be used.
It has never been more vital for parents to take an active role in their children’s lives. Parents need to be diligent and set ground rules. We must openly discuss these issues with our children so they understand the need to delay joining social media platforms like Instagram, and also be prepared for the content if and when they do join.
Readers make our world go round. Make your voice heard in the official Evie reader survey.