States study impact of Instagram on children’s mental and physical health

“For too long, Meta has ignored the devastation Instagram is making on the mental health and well-being of our children and youth,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “Enough is Enough. We conducted this nationwide survey to get answers about Meta’s efforts to promote the use of this social media platform among young Californians – and to determine if, this doing so, Meta broke the law.

Pressure on Meta has intensified since former employee Frances Haugen leaked thousands of pages of internal documents about how the company has researched and dealt with a range of issues, from hate speech to the ‘Stop the Steal ”to Instagram’s impacts on mental health. on teenage users.

The documents also show that Meta is struggling to grab and hold the attention of young people, facing competition from apps like TikTok and Snapchat.

States are studying the techniques Meta uses to get young people to log on to Instagram more frequently and spend more time scrolling through the app, and how those features could harm users.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to be manipulated for longer engagement on screen and data mining, it becomes imperative that state attorneys general engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws, ”Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said.

“These accusations are false and demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the facts,” Instagram spokeswoman Liza Crenshaw said in a statement. “As the challenges of protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we have led the industry in the fight against bullying and supporting those struggling with suicidal thoughts, l self-harm and eating disorders. “

She highlighted new features introduced by Instagram, including a “Take a break” prompt that users can activate and parental supervision tools for teenage accounts.

After Instagram’s internal research into adolescent mental health risks was first reported by the the Wall Street newspaper in September, lawmakers and regulators renewed their calls for Meta to drop plans to launch a version of the app for children 12 and under. (Instagram, like most social media apps, bans users under the age of 13 due to federal privacy law.)

Soon after, Meta said he was putting the project on hold.

Editor’s Note: Meta pays NPR to authorize NPR content.

Additional reporting was produced by Barbara Ortutay of The Associated Press.

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