The prestigious Wall Street Journal published a report on an internal investigation that Facebook conducted on the effect on mental health in children by the use of Instagram.
It admits that the application is ‘toxic’ and generates serious problems such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, Breitbart reported.
The newspaper had access to a March 2020 slideshow posted on Facebook’s internal message board titled ‘teen mental health in depth’ in which the research findings are summarized.
The research found that “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”
“Comparisons [of their bodies to that of influencers] on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
Because of the app’s particular focus on lifestyle, physical image, and photos of ‘perfect moments,’ the researchers concluded that “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
One slideshow claims that in the U.S., at least 6 percent of teens who reported suicidal thoughts blamed Instagram; in the U.K., this figure was 13 percent.
Facebook spokespeople attempted to downplay the Wall Street Journal report saying it ‘focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light’ and arguing that the existence of the research ‘demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and challenging issues young people may struggle with.
However, Facebook’s plans to launch Instagram for children under 13 still stand, or at least, the company has not announced its cancellation.
In addition, Instagram relies almost exclusively on its young audience. More than 40 percent of its users are under 22 years old, so it is difficult for the company to abandon its current marketing strategy beyond the harmful effects on children.
“Instagram is well positioned to resonate and win with young people,” read one slide from the researchers. “There is a path to growth if Instagram can continue their trajectory.”
Lawmakers push to cancel launch of ‘Instagram kids’
In April of this year, two senators, Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Facebook’s CEO requesting that the company share with them documentation on the app’s impact on children’s mental health in the face of the impending launch of the Instagram for Kids app, which targets children under 13.
“We write with concern about the growing body of evidence that social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, may have a detrimental impact on the mental health of children and adolescents,” the senators wrote in their letter, which the company did not reciprocate.
Massachusetts Democratic Representative Lori Trahan reacted to the Wall Street Journal article:
“Facebook’s internal documents show that the company’s failure to protect children on Instagram—especially young girls—is outright neglect, and it’s been going on for years,” Trahan said in a statement according to NBC.
“Facebook has no business developing additional social media platforms explicitly designed for our children when they can’t be trusted to keep their current house in order,” he added.
Additionally, there are several reports of sexual predators using social media like Facebook and Instagram to trick minors into abusing them or subjecting them to sex trafficking. In a more recent investigation, the Wall Street Journal also revealed that the Chinese short video app, TikTok, recommended to its underage users videos with pornographic content, drug and alcohol consumption, making social media one of the most dangerous places for children and teenagers.