Instagram has announced that it is working on ways to discourage users from focusing on physical appearance, after a report from the Wall Street Journal showed that Facebook researchers had found that the app is toxic for teenage girls.
According to the Newspaper, Facebook researchers have been conducting studies on the effects of the app to its users for the last three years. The study revealed that Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012 can have damaging mental health and body image effects especially to the millions of young girls on the platform.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” one internal presentation slide obtained by The Journal showed.
The Journal further reports that from the research, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users cited Instagram as suicidal trigger.
Karina Newton, head of public policy at Instagram, referenced Facebook’s internal research as a demonstration of the company’s commitment to “understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Facebook researchers findings also suggested that some issues with teen mental health were specific to Instagram, and not social media as a whole. Instagram led in social comparison on factors such as physical appearance, wealth and success.
Newton says that among the measures the app is taking to increase the focus on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image is prompting users to view different content if they repeatedly view triggering content.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that these nudges will help point people towards content that inspires and uplifts them, and to a larger extent, will shift the part of Instagram’s culture that focuses on how people look,” she said.
Despite the report findings, Facebook confirmed in July that it was going ahead with the development of Instagram Kids, the app version for teenagers.