In studies conducted over the past three years, Facebook researchers have found that Instagram is “harmful for a sizable percentage” of young users, particularly teenage girls, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Research presented in 2019 reportedly found that Instagram makes body image issue worse for one in three teen girls. Teens also said Instagram increased rates of anxiety and depression, reported the Journal, citing internal company documents.
On Tuesday, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it stands by its research to understand young people’s experiences on the app.
“The question on many people’s minds is if social media is good or bad for people,” wrote Karina Newton, head of public policy at Instagram, in a blog post. “The research on this is mixed; it can be both. At Instagram, we look at the benefits and the risks of what we do.”
Newton added that Instagram has done “extensive work around bullying, suicide and self-injury, and eating disorders” to make the app a safe place for everyone. The company is also focused on addressing negative social comparison and body image, said Newton, and is developing ways to “jump in if we see people dwelling on certain types of content.”
For years, people have called out apps like Instagram for taking a toll on people’s mental well-being. Instagram has been criticized by users, advocacy groups and lawmakers for harboring harmful content and fostering anxiety and depression, particularly among younger audiences. Earlier this year, reports revealed Instagram is planning to launch a platform for kids under 13.
The Instagram research is part of a “trove of internal communications” reviewed by the Journal. On Monday, the Journal reported that, including celebrities and politicians, from some or all of its community standards as part of a program called XCheck. A Facebook spokesman said the program was meant to give certain Facebook pages a “second layer of review to make sure we’ve applied our policies correctly.”