After Facebook Scandals, Is Keeping Children Off Social Media the Solution?

Following Facebook scandals involving an internal report that acknowledged possible effects on teenagers, what can parents do to limit its effects?

  • Instagram can be harmful to teenagers mental health (Image source: AFP)
    Instagram can be harmful to teenagers' mental health (AFP)

Following a series of damaging disclosures about the firm, a Facebook whistleblower, Francis Haugen, expressed concerns about the company's numerous business operations, and she consequently testified before Congress.

The documents released revealed several explosive information about the company's growth strategies, including bids to market its products directly to children. The Company's internal research deemed its Instagram platform harmful to the mental health of young girls.

The report said that 13.5% of adolescent girls declared the platform exacerbated suicide thoughts, and 17% said it exacerbated an eating disorder.

Instagram can increase body image concerns among tweens and teens

According to another report by Healthline, Jessica Castonguay, DO, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist and an expert on eating disorders said that “the added stimulus of frequent images of ‘ideal' body shape can lead to increased body image concerns among tweens and teens.”

“Individuals with specific temperaments or psychiatric conditions may be more likely to experience the negative effects of social media exposure, regardless of how much time they spend ‘room scrolling,’” said Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director.

Dr. Jennifer Weber, the director of behavioral health at PM Pediatrics Behavioral Health, told Healthline that it's not realistic to ban children from social media, though she encourages a regulated usage, adding that children can be thought to use social platforms responsibly.

Limiting social media use is key

Castonguay and Weber advised parents to set rules and boundaries for their children on how to use social media. She suggested avoiding screens during dinner time and 1 hour before bedtime.

Experts also advised creating a central charging station for all phones at night. Limiting social media use to waking hours for parents is a way to reduce the number of time children spend unattended on the internet.

Modeling a healthy self-image and encouraging acceptance of different body types can also help, says Castonguay.