Instagram under fire for allegedly knowing app can have negative mental health impacts for teens

Here's how Instagram may be taking a toll on your teen
Here's how Instagram may be taking a toll on your teen

Scrolling through social media may leave some feeling depressed and anxious.

According to research obtained by the Wall Street Journal, 32% of teen girls said when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.

Houston Oculofacial plastic surgeon, Dr. Mirwat Sami, said she noticed this trend starting years ago as more people began asking her to look like a photo from social media.

“They think this is reality when in fact it isn’t,” Sami said.

The Wall Street Journal said Instagram has had research illustrating this mental stress for two years.

Instagram downplayed the research results and issued a statement that, in part, reads:

“Issues like negative social comparison and anxiety exist in the world, so they’re going to exist on social media too. That doesn’t change the fact that we take these findings seriously, and we set up a specific effort to respond to this research and change Instagram for the better.”

Psychologist Ceci Hudson Torn, COO of Ethos Behavioral Health Group, said since the technology isn’t going anywhere, parents need to help children pursue activities offline and create boundaries for online activity.

“The portal of the phone is like an airport, and you wouldn’t let your 12 or 13-year-olds walk by themselves and introduce themselves to strangers in the airport,” Hudson Torn said.

She said parents should remember who the phone belongs to. She said parents should not think of the phone as belonging to the child, but as a tool the child borrows. She did not recommend physically taking the phone away from the child, but instead using parental control apps to put limits on how much social media and what sites they can access.

Giving too much freedom to teens on social media can be dangerous, according to Torn.

“Because it’s not the full person, it’s just one piece of it, and especially the platform, Instagram, tends to be filtered to the 20th degree so that it’s like the most beautiful picture album that you could imagine,” Torn said.

Torn stressed the importance of face-to-face interaction so teens could have a better perspective of the small glimpse social media images give of a person’s real life.

Sami is concerned without immediate intervention, this could lead to more cases of body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a serious diagnosis where someone obsessively focuses on perceived negative features on themselves. Sami said no surgeon should operate on a patient that shows signs of BDD.