Kim Kardashian recently gained her 100 millionth follower on Instagram, a fact that was celebrated as a somewhat major milestone. But according to new research, that may not necessarily be great news. A new study published last week brought some surprising results: Measuring the impact of the five biggest social media networks — Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter — it found that Instagram is the most damaging to people aged 14 – 24. More so than the other networks, Instagram was found to have a negative impact on sleep, body image, bullying, as well as contributing to feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. Researchers interviewed more than 1,400 young users of these platforms to compare the overall their impact on mental well-being. This is particularly noteworthy given that Instagram is used by more teens than any other network.
A full 76% of American teens aged 13-17 use it, and many parents mistakenly assume it’s a friendly social network focusing on pretty photos.
But those innocuous seeming images are contributing to body image issues for many. With its razor focus on perfectly edited photos, coupled the ability gain likes and generate comments, the network not surprisingly is one teens consistently use as a yardstick of popularity and attractiveness. According to Rachel Simmons, co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Instagram’s simplicity is deceiving: “Look more closely, and you find the Rosetta Stone of girl angst: a way for tweens and teens to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I included in that picture?), even how many people like them (if you post and get too few likes, you might feel ‘Instashame,’ as one young woman calls it).”
Each month, new ways of micro-measuring “attractiveness” emerge as trends on Instagram. One of the latest, “ribcage bragging,” includes images of extremely thin users sucking in their already thin stomachs. It’s a ripple effect with far-reaching, and downright disturbing, results. Even plastic surgeons are reporting that young patients are requesting specific Instagram enhancements in the form of fuller lips, tighter necks and perkier eyes.
So do you need to delete your child’s Instagram account right now? Here are some tips to dealing with your Instagram-obsessed teen.
Have them read Rachel Simmons’ succinct, extremely powerful 10 Commandments of Instagram.
Have them read model Essena O’Neill’s moving account of why she decided to quit Instagram — and what it actually takes to create those “perfect” bikini photos.