Just weeks after Instagram announced it would be pausing its “Instagram for Kids” project, an investigation has been launched in several US states into how the app affects teenagers.
The group of state attorneys general from Massachusetts, Nebraska, California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont announced that they would be looking into the potentially harmful effects of Instagram on the mental wellbeing and safety of teens.
For some time now, public health groups have been expressing concerns about the lack of protection for kids from the dangers of social media platforms.
Like other parts of the internet, children can often end up being exposed to unsuitable content, cyberbullying, and an array of potential mental health problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.
Now, following a leak of internal documents in September that allegedly show that Facebook – which has since been rebranded as Meta – was aware of these harms and failed to take action.
The documents were leaked by a former employee of the company and contained internal research into the issue. This research suggested that teenage girls who were prone to body image issues have constant access to photos fitness and fashion influencers’ bodies.
As a result of this, many teen girls are made to feel worse about their bodies when they were already at a high risk of body image issues or eating disorders.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading the investigation, said in a statement, “Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit.”
The investigation will look into various parts of Instagram’s business model, including how its parent company Meta boosts engagement and how these techniques could be harmful.