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Just Listen to Facebook’s Own Research

If you are looking at our website, you likely agree with the proposition that social media is dangerous for children.  But in case you might be wavering in that conclusion or if you find yourself in a conversation with a friend or colleague who dismisses these concerns as paranoia, please take a moment to review what we have learned from a series of recent reports by the Wall Street Journal:

(1) Mental Health Danger:  According to one report, Facebook Inc. has spent the last three years researching how Instagram impacts millions of young adult users.  Here are some of their findings:

  • 32% percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.
  • Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.

Despite the monumental importance of this research to our children’s well-being, Facebook, sadly but predictably, hid it from parents, educators, and advocates.

(2) Unsafe Content: According to a second report, investigators documented videos about drugs, pornography, and other adult content appearing on the feeds of TikTok accounts purporting to be young children.  (Even more concerning, the Organization for Social Media Safety has frequently found this type of content on TikTok with its Restricted Mode engaged, a setting which the platform markets as a way for parents to limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences.)

(3) Criminal Activity: Another report uncovered that Facebook employees have repeatedly raised alarms internally about serious criminal or unsafe activities being conducted via Facebook’s platforms.  Such warnings have included:

  • a Mexican drug cartel that was using Facebook to recruit, train and pay hit men;
  • human traffickers in the Middle East that were using Facebook to lure women into abusive employment situations in which they were treated like slaves or forced to perform sex work;
  • armed groups in Ethiopia that were using Facebook to incite violence against ethnic minorities;
  • organ selling, pornography, and government action against political dissent.

The investigation showed that most often Facebook did not undertake any action in response to these alerts undoubtedly putting more lives in jeopardy.

In all, what these new reports continue to make clear is that the Organization for Social Media Safety’s message to parents and educators remains as true today as it did when we began this mission several years ago.  Social media is dangerous, and we cannot rely on social media companies to protect our children.

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