A Senate committee will investigate Facebook Inc., following a recent report revealing that Instagram (which Facebook owns) is “toxic for teen girls.” The Wall Street Journal found that Facebook conducted research that discovered this effect but downplayed the platform’s negative impact in public.
The report first cites the case of 18-year-old Anastasia Vlasova, who began using Instagram at age 13. She spent “three hours a day entranced by the seemingly perfect lives and bodies of the fitness influencers who posted on the app.”
Vlasova told The WSJ, “When I went on Instagram, all I saw were images of chiseled bodies, perfect abs and women doing 100 burpees in 10 minutes.” Now, for one year she’s been seeing a therapist after developing an eating disorder, which she directly attributes to using Instagram.
In 2020, researchers inside Instagram uncovered startling findings, which they then revealed in a slide presentation on Facebook’s internal message board, the report notes.
The slides disclosed the following concerning discoveries:
- “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
- “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”
- “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Additionally, in one of the most startling revelations, one presentation showed that “among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.”
Instagram is believed to be more harmful to the mental health of young girls compared to other social media platforms. This may be because Instagram’s primary focus is on “the body and lifestyle.”
“Social comparison is worse on Instagram,” Facebook’s researchers acknowledged in 2020.
The research also found, “The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression.”
Now, this report finding that Facebook knew about the harms Instagram can cause has led to bipartisan condemnation of Facebook Inc.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, have announced their committee will begin investigating Facebook.
Sens. Blumenthal and Blackburn recently said in a joint statement:
“It is clear that Facebook is incapable of holding itself accountable. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens.
“When given the opportunity to come clean to us about their knowledge of Instagram’s impact on young users, Facebook provided evasive answers that were misleading and covered up clear evidence of significant harm.
“We are in touch with a Facebook whistleblower and will use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it – including seeking further documents and pursuing witness testimony. The Wall Street Journal’s blockbuster reporting may only be the tip of the iceberg.”
In Washington, D.C. these days, it can appear at times that bipartisanship has all but disappeared. It’s encouraging that on the issue of protecting teenage users of social media, both parties have found common ground so far.
To learn more about how you can help your child deal with social media, check out Focus on the Family’s Broadcast, “Guiding Your Child’s Media Choices.”
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