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How Instagram fuels young users’ mental health problems

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Senator Claire McCaskill said Instagram is ‘an unregulated Wild West’ – with little oversight or regulation

How Instagram fuels young users’ mental health problems

Social media companies should shed their kids’ apps category, US lawmakers say – amid mental health concerns around third-party sharing on Instagram.

A Senate commerce committee hearing, held on Wednesday on Tuesday evening, focused on Instagram.

Senator Claire McCaskill said Instagram “is an unregulated Wild West” and that kids are going through “the intense stages of determining what is normal and what isn’t”.

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McCaskill asked how Instagram’s new “reactive reporting” system, which allows kids to report when they encounter bullying and harassment and then sends notifications to their parent about it, would help.

“It’s not as though there’s oversight from anyone about what goes on,” McCaskill said. “It’s an unregulated Wild West.”

McCaskill said that just two of her staff members follow Instagram, while 13 members of her delegation were followed.

US senators wrote to the company in November calling for it to stop releasing findings on “unmonitored third-party ads to users” and to remove any “photo galleries featuring explicit content” before the age of 18.

In July the National Association of Social Workers found that Instagram serves up “highly questionable self-harm photos” from people seeking to hurt themselves.

“Instagram sees about 13.3 million ads every day,” said McCaskill. “At some point that’s going to be of use to them. Instagram needs to understand that if they aren’t monitoring the content, in an ideal world they would get rid of it.”

Ari Fleischer, a Twitter, Facebook and Instagram spokesperson, told CNN that the company had indeed followed through with the changes made to combat suicide.

“There is no place for hate speech or support for violence on the platform,” he said. “We take the health and safety of our community seriously and are committed to helping our users manage the many choices they have for their accounts.”

Instagram has a broader service to parents and carers – which now includes Messenger Kids and Facebook Family View – in addition to the brand’s main app.

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Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, said parents had always been able to choose how and with whom their children use the platform.

McCaskill questioned the importance of increasing regulation and what effect it might have on Facebook and other platforms that target kids.

“We have seen one or two children to cry in front of Congress,” she said. “I think [some of] that should be all-encompassing and that we can figure it out and pull some of the resources that we do have.”

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