Facebook knows that its app Instagram is toxic for teen girls, but has failed to do anything about it, despite years of internal research proving damage.
The Wall Street Journal published a scathing report diving into the effects the app has on its users, and just how aware Facebook has been of these harmful effects. The report said Facebook has repeatedly found its app is harmful to a significant percentage of teenagers, yet neglected to do anything to fix the issues caused by its own app.
Facebook company studies from the past three years show how the app causes significant mental health issues, especially among teenage girls.
In the internal Facebook reports, researchers wrote that Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three teenage girls. Their research shows that 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.
Research into suicide and self harm showed that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and six percent of American traced wanting to commit suicide to Instagram.
Facebook’s researchers found that some issues with teen mental health were specific to Instagram, not to all social media apps more broadly. This is especially the case when it came to “social comparison,” where people compare themselves to the appearance, wealth or success of others on the app.
The company’s head of public policy, Karina Newton, responded to the WSJ article in a blog post, saying that Instagram is researching ways to “nudge” users to different content. She admitted that some can have “negative experiences” on the app, but downplayed it by shifting focus to the positives of staying connected and giving a voice to those who are marginalized.
Facebook is currently moving forward with building an Instagram for kids app aimed at children under the age of 13.
US lawmakers are taking steps towards investigating the company following the searing report. Members of the Senate commerce subcommittee on consumer protection have said they will investigate Facebook for its knowledge of the negative influence its app has on teenagers. There are now renewed pledges among lawmakers to block the app for children as well.