WSJ: Facebook knows through its own research that Instagram is harmful to teenagers

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Facebook is said to have conducted a major internal investigation into the harmfulness of Instagram. That reports The Wall Street Journal, which would have seen the results. According to WSJ, the research shows that the photo app is mainly harmful to teenage girls.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook’s research “shows time and again how harmful Instagram is to a sizable percentage of users.” According to WSJ, that percentage is mostly made up of teenage girls. For 32 percent of teenage girls who use the app and who are insecure about their bodies, Instagram is said to exacerbate that insecurity. In addition, Instagram is said to worsen teens’ mental health through, among other things, pressure to conform to “social stereotypes,” the need to be acknowledged through likes and comments, and in-app harassment. The survey also found that 13 percent of UK users surveyed by Facebook and 6 percent of US users with suicidal thoughts blamed Instagram for it.

Facebook has since responded to the article from The Wall Street Journal. According to Facebook, the newspaper’s article only highlights the negative aspects of the investigation. In reality, the results would be more ‘mixed’. “Many” found Instagram to have a positive impact on their lives, but “some” did not, the company claims. According to Facebook, the latter group mainly consists of people who are already not feeling well. Despite this, Facebook believes it is taking the results ‘seriously’ and is improving Instagram based on the research.

The results come from a major internal investigation that has been going on for three years, according to WSJ. The journalists would have seen various presentations that Facebook made based on the research results. The findings would be based on focus groups, online surveys and diary research. According to The Wall Street Journal, “tens of thousands” of people were questioned in the surveys.

According to a leaked internal memo from earlier this year, Facebook is working on an Instagram version for children under the age of 13. This has also been criticized in response to the story of The Wall Street Journal. For example, US senators have sent Facebook a letter asking the company to cancel the plans for the child-friendly version. According to Facebook’s memo, work would also be done to make Instagram ‘safer’ for teenagers. Previously, Facebook had already turned off the option for adults to send unknown teenagers a private message on Instagram.

One of the slides Facebook allegedly created based on its internal investigation. Source: The Wall Street Journal

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