It’s no secret that teens love their social media. Whether it’s posting pictures on Instagram or performing trending Tik Tok dances, social media gives youth a sense of identity and a way of staying socially connected.
According to a study conducted by Pew Research, 63% of teens say they use social media every day and 45% say they’re on the internet “almost constantly”. We’re all aware that social media platforms can impact teens mental health, expose them to bullying, and trick them into believing unrealistic views of other people’s lives. Unfortunately, many of us fail to also mention other severe online dangers that are not talked about enough.
In September 2021, whistle blower Francis Haugen, leaked internal Facebook documents that identified how their platform creates societal harm to young people. The Wallstreet Journal then released the Facebook Files which exposed Facebook for not only going to extreme lengths to improve its toxic image, but also promoting practices that compromises youth safety and health.
What most people think of when they hear the term human trafficking is that it has to do with some sad, unfortunate circumstance. Maybe the young boy or girl fell for the classic getting candy from a stranger in a van trick, or maybe the girl who left home to move in with her boyfriend was psychologically manipulated to take part in unwanted sex acts. The fact of the matter is, human trafficking coercion can happen to anyone, at any time, and in any place – even in the safety of your very own home.
Since 2018, Facebook documents show that the company has known about human traffickers using their platforms. In 2019, this matter got even worse, causing Apple to threaten to pull Facebook and Instagram’s access to the app store. The Facebook Files reported by the Wallstreet Journal suggested that employees regularly identified information on their social platform related to drug cartels and human traffickers. But Facebook’s response to sensitive issues like this were very “weak” compared to their reactive responses towards “PR pressures”.
Harvested Personal Data
You may think that social media companies only make their money through selling advertising, but what you might not know is that they also make money by collecting, analyzing and selling user’s personal data. Profiles are used to feed algorithms which often shapes our newsfeed, personalize our search results and even determine the advertisements that show up on our screen.
In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal was exposed for harvesting Facebook user’s personal information and the data of those who interreacted with it, as well as friends who had never given consent. Although both parties deny these allegations, the dispute between Facebook and the data analytics firm went as far as to suggest that the data may have been used to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the United States or the UK Brexit referendum.
In November 2019, another privacy flaw. Even after Facebook had restricted access to many of its APIs to prevent a similar scandal from taking place, about 100 developers had obtained access to Group data, including people’s names and photos.
Psychological Impact on Teens
Today, a digitally perfect face or body is just a few clicks away, thanks to the many filters apps provide us and photoshop – within minutes you can get the most flawless skin, the whitest teeth and the perfect abs.
For years, Facebook has been conducting studies of how social media apps affect its millions of young users. Their findings confirmed some serious body image issues, especially for teen girls. According to the research from the Wallstreet Journal, here is what they learned:
- Thirty-two per cent of teen girls said that when they feel bad about their bodies, Instagram made it worse
- Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression
- Pressure to share only the best moments/look perfect could pitch teenagers into depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders
- Among users that reported suicidal thoughts, 13% in the UK and 6% in the US traced them back to Instagram
- More than 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began on the app
What has once felt like an organic social experience for users, has overtime proven to be a carefully organized experiment that has resulted in damaging outcomes. With Facebook under severe scrutiny for being aware of its harmful impacts on society, now more than ever, youth need to second guess what they post on social media and protect themselves.
Comment below and let us know what you think should be done in order to prioritize the health and safety of children using social media over corporate profit. 👇👇👇