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Instagram Attempts to Fix Safety Issues for Teens on Platform

Internal documents and research reveal that top executives at Meta knew about the harmful effects of Instagram on young girls.

Photo and video sharing site Instagram operated by Meta Platforms  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report on Tuesday said the service is making changes to make the platform safer for teenagers. 

New features include taking a break to step away from Instagram, young people will be off limits for tags or mentions by users who do not follow them, adding parental controls, and changing the way Instagram makes recommendations to this group of users.

Instagram quoted controversy a few months ago when internal documents and research revealed that top executives knew about the harmful effects of its platform on young girls.

Early testing of the 'Take a Break' feature showed that once teens set the reminders to limit their Insta-time, more than 90% of them keep them on, the company said.

Instagram on Tuesday launched this feature across the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia today, and added it will be launched to all users by early next year.

Instagram by default makes a young teen users account private and will now stop adults from being able to message teens directly if they don’t follow them.

Adam Mosseri, head of the platform, said Instagram will be stricter about what we recommend to teens in digital spaces like search, explore, hashtags and suggested accounts.

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"Our research shows — and external experts agree — that if people are dwelling on one topic for a while, it could be helpful to nudge them towards other topics at the right moment," Mosseri said in a company blog.

Next year, parents and guardians will be able to view how much time their kids spend on Instagram and set time limits. 

In September, internal documents reported by The Wall Street Journal revealed that, “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers at Facebook reportedly wrote.

The Journal cited internal Facebook studies over the past three years that examined how Instagram affects its young user base, with teenage girls being most notably harmed.

According to one slide from 2019, reportedly seen by the Journal, researchers concluded, “we make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

Teens surveyed by the company also blamed Instagram for increases in anxiety and depression, according to the research.

Findings of this research were reportedly cited in a presentation given last year to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.