Instagram's Negative Impact on Teenage Girls
Recently it was reported by the Wall Street Journal that Facebook, which owns Instagram, had been hiding data about the impact of social media on teenage girls. In Facebook's own research they found, repeatedly, that a sizable percentage of teen girls were harmed by Instagram, particularly around body image. When teen girls felt bad about their bodies, 34% reported that Instagram made them feel worse and, based on Facebook's own slide presentation, one in three teen girls experienced worsening body image by viewing Instagram.
Instagram was specifically identified as problematic as its core content focuses on the face, body and lifestyle which illicit comparison, primarily a problematic issue with teens. Content creators only show their best moments through the use of heavily filtered photos which are unrealistic and unachievable in the real world. When Mark Zuckerburg, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, was questioned during a recent congressional hearing about this data his answers were so evasive that Senator Blumenthal stated that "we should be worried about what Facebook is hiding... targeting teens with potentially dangerous products while masking the science in public".
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For parents, it is important to not only monitor your teens exposure to social media platforms, but to openly discuss how deceptive they can be. Parents can combat some of the damage that occurs through comparison to influencers/content creators/peers/celebrities on Instagram by talking openly about the amount of filtering and staging that occurs to get just the perfect image. Reminding them that influencers, peers, and others generally only show the best moments in their life (which is not representative of the majority of their experience) helps your teen obtain a more balanced view of what is posted on social media.
Finally, if you notice that your teen is developing increased anxiety or depression due to engagement with social media or from comparison to peers, influencers, or celebrities it is often helpful to seek the aid of a trained therapist or counselor to help them with their self esteem and to appreciate their unique strengths and gifts
*Jackie Perin LPC, is a licensed professional counselor specialized in working with self-identity, anxiety and depression issues with teens and adults at Houston-Therapy. Direct inquiries to Perin@Houston-Therapy.com