Internal researchers at Facebook-owned Instagram have found the app poses serious mental health danger to many teen girls, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, citing internal company documents. Facebook hasn’t made the research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.
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Facebook is also said to have acknowledged that it makes body image issues worse for one in three girls, according to the report. Additionally, several teen users also blamed Instagram for increasing rate of anxiety and depression, it noted.
WSJ’s report also prompted some U.S. lawmakers to launch a probe into Facebook’s lack of transparency around internal research.
Instagram countered the report stating it focuses on “a limited set of findings” and that the company stands by its research. “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,” Instagram said in a statement.
The image-sharing platform added that social media’s impact on the wellbeing of people is “mixed” and depends on the state of mind when people use it. According to the company’s research, many users said Instagram makes things better or has no effect, but it may make things worse for those who are already feeling down.
“Issues like negative social comparison and anxiety exist in the world, so they’re going to exist on social media too,” Instagram noted.
The company continues to face criticism for its plan to create a separate app for children, with several U.S. attorneys and advocacy groups stating it could cause harm to the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of minors who may not be equipped to handle the complexities of social media.
The company said it will continue to develop features to help users protect themselves from bullying, including the latest feature to hide like counts. “From our research, we’re starting to understand the types of content some people feel may contribute to negative social comparison, and we’re exploring ways to prompt them to look at different topics if they’re repeatedly looking at this type of content,” it added.