Facebook has two slides that explore in detail how Instagram affects the mental health of teenagers. The slides were heavily quoted earlier this month in a story that reported the company’s researchers found that “Instagram is detrimental to a fair percentage” of teenagers, especially teenage girls. “
Instagram tried to refute those claims, saying his research was mischaracterized. But the reaction that followed had already forced the company to work on the Instagram Kids app. It also raised pressure on Facebook to publish a thorough survey, which the company eventually did. The head of Facebook security is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on child safety on Instagram on Thursday.
The slides offer how Facebook explores thorny issues affecting its own services. Many include long notes with additional “context” about the more controversial aspects of the research. For example, a slide called “Perfect picture, a sense of attraction and enough money” most likely started on Instagram, states that the information in the slide “should not be used as estimates of the average experience among teenagers.”
Other notes, like one on the slide, titled “One in five teenagers says Instagram makes them feel worse, and UK girls the most negative,” try to downplay the findings. “This research did not aim (and does not assess) causal claims between Instagram and health or well-being.” (This line is repeated on several other slides.)
The research also offers insight into what kind of content teens experience positively on Instagram. One slide states that meme accounts are among the content that “makes teens feel best”.
The publication of the research will not diminish the criticism of Facebook, especially those in Congress who were already deeply suspicious of the company’s attempts to attract children to its services. Some lawmakers from the Democratic Party have called on the company to completely abandon its work on Instagram Kids. For Facebook, younger users are not just one of the most important demographic categories, but one in which the company is constantly losing to rivals like Snapchat and Instagram.
Other research, which was also conducted by Facebook and The Wall Street Journal this week it was revealed that Facebook is struggling to maintain engagement between teens and adolescents. In one slide, which Facebook did not release to the public, the company discussed whether toddler play dates could be used “as a growth lever for Messenger Kids.” Facebook later said it was “a callous way of asking a serious question and does not reflect our approach to building the app.”
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