Facebook publishes slides on how Instagram affects teen mental health


Facebook has two slide decks detailing its research into how Instagram affects teens’ mental health. The slides were heavily cited by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month in a story that reported the company’s own researchers had found that “Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls.

Instagram has attempted to rebut those claims, saying its research was mischaracterized. But the ensuing backlash has already forced the company to “pause” its work on an Instagram Kids app. It also raised pressure on Facebook to release the underlying research, which the company ultimately agreed to do. Facebook’s head of safety is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on child safety on Instagram Thursday.

Many of the slides include lengthy annotations with additional “context” on the more controversial aspects of the research. For example, a slide titled “The Perfect image, feeling attractive, and having enough money are most likely to have started on Instagram,” states that the information in the slide “should not be used as estimates of average experience among teen users.”

Other annotations, like one on a slide, titled “One in five teens say that Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves, with UK girls the most negative,” attempt to downplay the findings. “This research was not intended to (and does not) evaluate causal claims between Instagram and health or well-being.” (That line is repeated on several other slides.)

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