Recent disclosures from company insiders reveal social media companies used devious algorithms to attract vulnerable teens, exposing them to bullying and harmful communications. Teens are also being targeted and sexually exploited by predators through encrypted messaging and live streaming services.
Problems Associated with Teen Social Media Use
According to mental health experts, the increase in social media use has resulted in a 50 percent increase in teen suicide over the past decade. Other problems associated with social media use include:
- Eating and sleeping disorders
- Sexual abuse
- Attempted suicide
Lawmakers Question Social Media Companies
In the fall of 2021, members of the Senate’s consumer protection subcommittee held hearings to question social media executives. Lawmakers want the companies to take more actions to protect children online.
In October 2021, a whistleblower who had worked at Facebook (now Meta) testified before the Senate about the company’s impact on kids. The whistleblower had released tens of thousands of pages of internal research and documents about the social media giant’s operations.
Executives from TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube also faced questioning and accusations in a separate hearing. Executives from all three organizations promised to share internal research on the effects of their products on youth.
In December 2021, the head of Meta’s Instagram appeared before the Senate Commerce subcommittee to address questions whether the app is harmful to children’s health. Instagram rolled out safety features prior to the hearing.
Wall Street Journal Report
In September 2021, The Wall Street Journal ran an article “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.” It was based on documents provided by the Facebook whistleblower that suggest Facebook (Meta) knew its Instagram platform was “toxic” for teenaged users and that its algorithms could direct them to content that worsened their body image.
Bill in Senate Committee Would Expand Safeguards
In September 2021, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, along with Congressional Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) reintroduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act to stop online practices such as manipulative marketing, amplification of harmful content, and damaging design features which threaten young people.
If your child has suffered a mental health crisis, eating disorder, attempted or completed suicide, or was sexually exploited through their social media use, call Legal Helpline for a free case review, or visit socialmediavictims.org for more information.