Social Media

Government should make social media platforms safer for young people

Government should make social media platforms safer for young people

A 2018 study indicated that frequent users of image-based social media platforms reported more anxiety, depression, and body image issues than less frequent users.

Of all the experts looking at the effects of social media on young people, teen voices are often the least heard. Parents worry about the safety of their children. Social media companies worry about their ad revenue, user base, and potential regulations. Policymakers are pushing for regulations that protect teens. All the while, we watch sideways as these groups fight for the future of our social media practices, but we want to participate.

As a college freshman researching the damaging effects of social media on teenage mental health and a survivor of a high school and eating disorder raising awareness of harmful dietary culture practices, we have seen firsthand how detrimental social media can be to the mental health of our friends and peers. We’ve also studied the latest neuropsychology behind these effects, and we’re concerned.

The value of our experience in the field cannot be ignored. At the height of my Instagram usage, I (Caroline) can’t count how many times the first thing I saw at the top of my feed was a “What I Eat in a Day” video. The words were spelled in a funky font and light pop music played in the background as a young woman explained her diet. A few more rolls and I came across an infographic outlining the “good and bad” foods to eat while in a calorie deficit. These feeds of food-related content made my eating disorder recovery much more difficult because the foods my doctors recommended were always listed in the “don’t eat” column of these infographics. Later, I realized that Instagram’s algorithms were increasing dangerous content that was causing teens to go on extreme diets because the company was doing approximately $228 million per year off followers of pro-eating disorder content.