Facebook knows Instagram is bad for teenagers’ mental health

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  • Instagram makes teen girls feel worse about themselves, Facebook internal researchers reportedly found.
  • Those findings were consistent across the past several years, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Some teens using Instagram said using the service directly led to suicidal thoughts.
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Facebook’s internal research shows that teen users’ mental health is negatively impacted by using the company’s photo- and video-sharing app, Instagram, according to a new report.

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” a Facebook internal document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal said. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

Those findings were consistent across the last several years of internal research, according to the report.

In 2019, a Facebook internal presentation, viewed by the WSJ, said of Instagram, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

Another presentation highlighted an even more troubling finding: a small percentage of British and American teen Instagram users said they started thinking suicidal thoughts due to the service.

Instagram is far more popular with teens than Facebook’s main social network, and the service’s massive userbase skews young: Over 40% of Instagram users are under 22 years old, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Young users are so critical to Instagram’s success that Facebook is currently working on a version of the service for children.

“We have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list, Instagram vice president of product Vishal Shah said in an internal memo viewed by BuzzFeed News. “We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time,” he said.

When reached for comment, Facebook representatives pointed to a blog post that appeared to confirm the veracity of the Wall Street Journal’s report.

“While the story focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light, we stand by this research,” the post said. “It demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.”

Moreover, the blog post said its research found that social media services like Facebook and Instagram aren’t, “inherently good or bad for people,” and, “what seems to matter most is how people use social media, and their state of mind when they use it.”

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