The Government Should Make Social Media Platforms Safer for Youth | #socialmedia | #children

A 2018 study indicated that frequent users of image-based social media platforms reported more anxiety, depression, and body image concerns than less frequent users

Of all the pundits weighing in on social media’s effects on young people, teen voices are often heard the least. Parents worry about the safety of their children. Social media companies worry about their ad revenue, user base, and potential regulations. Policymakers push for regulations that protect teens. All the while, we watch from the sidelines as these groups fight over the future of our social media practices, but we want in.

As a college freshman researching the detrimental effects of social media on adolescent mental health and a high school junior and eating disorder survivor raising awareness about harmful diet culture practices, we have seen firsthand how damaging social media can be to the mental health of our friends and peers. We have also studied the latest neuropsychology behind these effects, and we are worried.

The value of our on-the-ground experience cannot be discounted. At the height of my Instagram use, I (Caroline) cannot count how many times the first thing I saw at the top of my feed was a “What I Eat in a Day” video. Words were spelled out in a funky font and lighthearted pop music played in the background as a young woman explained her diet. A few more scrolls and I came across an infographic describing “good and bad” foods to eat during a calorie deficit. These streams of diet-related content made my eating disorder recovery much harder as the foods that my doctors recommended always appeared in the “do not eat” column of these infographics. Later, I realized that Instagram algorithms were boosting dangerous content that prods teens to adopt extreme diets because the company makes approximately $228 million annually off the followers of pro-eating disorder content.

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