- Social media giant Instagram has introduced a new policy to limit marketing for diet and detox products as well as cosmetic surgeries, particularly to users under 18.
- The new policy, announced September 18, will restrict underage users from viewing posts with product and pricing information for dieting, detox, and cosmetic procedures. It will also remove content claiming “miraculous” and unsubstantiated results like extreme weight loss.
- The move has been praised by body positive activists, including celebrity Jameela Jamil, and dietitians specializing in eating disorders as a “step in the right direction.”
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Instagram and its parent company Facebook are cracking down on marketing to minors that preys on negative body image. Specifically, the social media platforms will restrict underage users from seeing posts promoting diets, so-called “detox” or weight-loss products, and cosmetic surgeries.
The social media giant announced the policy September 18 in the face of concerns that the platforms are harming mental health and body image in young people, Insider previously reported.
Along with the age-restricted content, Instagram also announced it would remove content making dubious or “miraculous” claims about weight loss and other products connected to commercial offers such as discount codes, the Guardian reported.
Recently, celebrities, including Jameela Jamil of “The Good Place,” have taken up the cause, publicly denouncing famous figures like Kim and Khloé Kardashian for shilling dubious “flat tummy” and “detox” teas online via social media.
“This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet/detox industry,” Jamil said in a statement.
The new policy is a promising first step, agreed Melainee Rogers, certified eating disorder registered dietitian and founder of Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Centre, and could help make social media a more positive influence, or at least less harmful, on impressionable kids and teens.
“Social media is often not an accurate representation of the human body. It can promote behaviours to achieve the so-called ideal body that can be dangerous and even lethal,” Rogers told Insider. “I’m really pleased to hear that they’re addressing the stuff that’s not working, especially predatory behaviour.”
Social media can strongly influence body image, especially in young people, but it can also be a force for good
Previous research has shown that as little as 30 minutes a day on Instagram can have a significant impact on how your view yourself and your body, prompting self-objectification linked to depression and disordered eating.
“Social media is a big trigger. When we’re surrounded by images, we compare ourselves to that imagery to see if we fit. It’s based on a very basic need to fit in and be loved,” Rogers said.
But social media can also be a force for good, connecting people to each other and forming communities.
Roger recommends that people balance their social media feeds by following users and brands that promote body positivity, in addition to weeding out those that provoke anxiety or insecurity.
“I think social media actually does a lot of good stuff. It can be a wonderful thing, and it is the way of the future. But I think there are ways we can do it better,” she said.
The new policy is a good first step, but it won’t solve teen’s social media-related mental health problems
Instagram’s new policy specifically targets posts that capitalise on the need to fit in, prohibiting content with intent to market diets, detoxes, and other aesthetic services for anyone under 18.
Rogers said it’s a move in the right direction, but there’s still more to be done with regards to social media, particularly media literacy, to help kids navigate the perils of the online world with their psyches intact.
“It’s a great first step but there’s a lot we can continue to do in the future,” she said. “I’d like to see social media platforms as a whole protecting our community and younger people. This includes kids understanding what they’re seeing and having a better sense of what is real.”
In the meantime, she added, parents and peers also have a role to play on social media. Parents, Rogers said, should be aware of what kids are reading and looking at online, and how it might influence them.
And everyone can make a positive difference just by checking in with friends and family about their online presence. Following a lot of very skinny “thinspiration” models or other accounts promoting unrealistic ideals could mean someone is at risk of negative self-image or of trying to lose weight in an unhealthy way.
“I think it’d be great as a society if we got to a place where there was positive peer pressure take care of your friends on what you’re consuming on social media, and whether it’s helpful or harmful,” she said. “We need to look out for each other.”