Children say Instagram worsens their mental health
Being a teen is hard under the best of circumstances. Being a teen in an era of constant digital connectivity is harder. Unfortunately, some tech companies seem to have made things worse – a lot worse. Last October, a former product manager at Facebook (now known as Meta) leaked documents indicating that the company has known, for years, that Instagram can cause serious harm to the mental health of pre-teen and teenage children. Among other findings, the internal research shared by the whistleblower reveals that:
- 32% of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse
- One in five teens say that Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves
- Teenagers who struggle with mental health say that Instagram makes their problems worse
- Teenagers blame Instagram for the increase in anxiety and depression among teens in recent years—a response that 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
- 40% of teen users of Instagram in the U.S. and U.K. who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began while using the product
- About a quarter of teens who reported feeling “not good enough” said the feeling started on Instagram
- Many teens said Instagram undermined their confidence in the strength of their friendships
These stats are disturbing. But they don’t get at the heartache and pain that so many families across the country are living with. For some families, the struggles and at times deadly effects on children may warrant legal action.
Lawsuits against Instagram and Meta allege the companies have known for years that their product is addictive and that they designed it that way. The lawsuits allege that Instagram intentionally exploits known features of adolescent neurochemistry to compel young people to keep increasing their use of the product. What’s worse, leaked documents suggest that when these companies’ researchers learned that such overuse could damage children’s wellbeing, Meta looked the other way, appearing to prioritize profits over people.
The number of children struggling with an addiction to Instagram seems to grow by the day. I’m hopeful that litigation will bring these children and their families the help they need.
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