WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

I read an interesting article today about Instagram and teen girls called “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Internal Documents Show.” Written by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharama for the Wall Street Journal, the article says that social media may become the youth generation’s tobacco companies.

Waffles the pug. Waffles has his own Instagram account wafflezworldwide.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Isn’t this scary? I feel like someone’s unleashed Godzilla on the world. What will we know 10 or 20 years from now? Hopefully, we will move beyond social media and get back to in person interaction. I think if I were a parent of younger kids today, I wouldn’t let my kids have a smart phone, but stick with the flip phones or dumb phones. I didn’t get my kids smart phones until they were in high school.

Another thing I found troubling with this article is that Facebook has done internal studies for several years and they know Instagram has issues at its core. But they downplay them to the public. Our congress and senate have asked for Facebook’s studies and they do not comply with the requests.

Here’s more from the article:

In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects on teens, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

The features that Instagram identifies as most harmful to teens appear to be at the platform’s core.

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, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” the research states.

What are your thoughts about Instagram and other social media? Do you spend much time with it? Do your kids or grandkids? Do you notice a change in how they feel after they use social media? I find I’m using it less and less.

23 thoughts on “WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

  1. It’s tough to do but I do think social media platforms should have a way to guide younger age groups toward more kid friendly content that helps build self esteem. That study is scary!

  2. The only difference is there are thousands of people making fun of you instead of half of the class. I don’t remember a lot of “uplifting” comments from many of the students, a few from teachers, but they could be cruel, too! Everything changes, and everything stays the same.

  3. Well, they recently got rid on the Victoria Secret Angles because of the shaming effect, so they have to replace it with something. There is a billion dollar diet industry and a zillion dollar makeup industry that depends on the shaming.

  4. I hate social media. My daughter is not a big user of social media, which I’m happy about. I think it’s a time suck and is designed to make you feel bad.

  5. My oldest daughter is 21 and she has an Instagram account, but she rarely posts anything. My youngest daughter is 13 and isn’t on Instagram, but hasn’t asked for one, thank goodness. Social media is pretty toxic at times and I’m an adult! I can’t imagine navigating it as a teenager.

  6. I agree that Instagram is addictive and harmful for mental health but it is also filled with positive things. I use it like Pinterest sometimes, to read quotes and memes. I also connect with other parents on it. My son is 6 so of course the only screentime he knows is offline YouTube. I predownload videos for him to watch so I know what he is watching and so he doesn’t get explicit ads. He plays games that I choose on my phone, also offline

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