Ubaid Zargar

Instagram’s print ad in the TOI plugs the platform’s teen-safety tools

The front-page ad promotes Instagram’s 50+ safety tools under Meta's Family Centre initiative.

In a bid to address growing concerns about the impact of social media on teenagers, Instagram has taken to print via an advertisement in the Times of India newspaper. This move is part of the social media giant’s ongoing efforts to promote teen safety on its platform. 

The advertisement on the newspaper, printed on June 25, specifically highlights the Sensitive Content Control tool, which falls under Meta's broader Family Centre tools initiative aimed at helping parents safeguard their teens’ online experiences.

Instagram's print ad
Instagram's print ad

Instagram’s Family Centre tools are designed to provide parents with resources to monitor and manage their children’s activities on the platform. Among other things, these tools include:

  1. Sensitive Content Control: Allows users to manage the types of content they see, reducing exposure to potentially disturbing or harmful posts.

  2. Activity Monitoring: Enables parents to view and track their children's time spent on Instagram, fostering better time management and balance.

  3. Direct Messages Controls: Gives parents oversight over who can message their children, reducing the risks of unwanted contact.

  4. Educational Resources: Offers parents and guardians information on how to discuss online safety and mental health with their children.

The introduction of these tools comes at a critical time, when discussions around the ill effects of social media have intensified, particularly concerning its impact on the mental health of young users. Various studies have shown a correlation between heavy social media use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues among teenagers.

According to a 2020 report by the Royal Society for Public Health, a UK-based multi-disciplinary charity, 70% of teenagers reported experiencing cyberbullying on social media platforms, and 41% said it made them feel anxious or depressed. Moreover, a study by the American Psychological Association found that teenagers who spend more than three hours per day on social media are more likely to report mental health issues.

The prevalence of graphic and sensitive content across social media platforms further exacerbates these concerns. With Instagram being a visually driven platform, exposure to such content can be significant. 

Instagram has faced many controversies over the years, raising serious concerns about online safety, particularly for younger users. One of the most notable controversies erupted in 2017 when it was revealed that the platform's algorithms were inadvertently promoting pro-eating disorder content. Users could easily find harmful content by searching hashtags related to anorexia and bulimia, which led to increased pressure on Instagram to address the issue.

Another major controversy occurred in 2021 when internal documents leaked by a whistleblower revealed that Facebook (now Meta), Instagram's parent company, was aware of the platform's negative impact on teenagers' mental health. The documents, dubbed the "Facebook Files," showed that Instagram exacerbated body image issues for one in three teenage girls and contributed to anxiety and depression among young users. 

This revelation led to widespread criticism and calls for stricter regulations and better safety measures on social media platforms. These incidents underscore the ongoing struggles Instagram faces in ensuring a safe and healthy online environment for its users.

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