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Facebook knew details about Instagram’s impact on mental health of teenagers: Report

Teenagers, particularly girls, blamed Instagram for anxiety and depression, according to Facebook’s own research.

Internal research conducted by Facebook shows that a large number of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, trace a significant amount of anxiety and mental health problems to Instagram, the Wall Street Journal reported. "Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," a slide in an internal presentation on the results of Facebook's research said, per WSJ. These findings, finalised in March 2020, were not made public by the company. In a letter written to US lawmakers after the research was conducted, Facebook refused to provide details of research the company conducted on the impact of its social media platforms on young people. The reticence to share this information provoked comparisons to the tobacco industry in the 20th century by two people cited in the WSJ report — Senator Richard Blumenthal and psychology professor Jean Twenge said that Facebook's behaviour was reminiscent of how the tobacco industry knew that cigarettes were carcinogenic, and did not agree with this assessment until much later. Facebook is reportedly planning to create an "Instagram for Kids" that leads to fewer of these issues, but the idea is controversial — a group of attorneys general in the US wrote to the company opposing the idea, saying that "this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account". What the findings say: The findings reported by Facebook boil down to these observations, apart from the one mentioned above: One in five teenagers…

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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