At a time when adolescents’ mental health is backsliding during an ongoing global pandemic, a Wall Street Journal report has revealed Facebook – which owns Instagram – is withholding critical information about the platform’s negative mental health impacts.
According to the CDC, hospitals across the U.S. saw a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits among children aged five to 11 years old and a 31% increase for children aged 12 to 17 between March and May 2020.
And now, Facebook’s internal research has been revealed to show Instagram is notably harmful to teenage girls’ mental health.
Much of the negative impact relates back to body image issues, anxiety, and depression. According to the research, thirty-two percent of teen girls reported that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. And among teenagers in the U.S. who reported suicidal thoughts, 6% traced the desire back to Instagram.
Child safety groups, federal lawmakers and attorney generals from 44 states are calling for Facebook to abandon their plans to create an Instagram-like platform specifically designed for children under the age of 13.
The return to a full-time in-person school year has some teenagers also struggling with social and academic anxiety. A growing number of states have passed bills allowing adolescents to miss school for mental health or behavioral health reasons. One poll showed 78% of teenagers surveyed in May 2020 said schools should support mental health days for students.
For parents of young children and teenagers, experts stress the importance of normalizing talking about mental health to empower them to engage with support and ask for help when they need it.