How Facebook’s Algorithm Puts Kids and Young Adults at Risk

How Facebook’s Algorithm Puts Kids and Young Adults at Risk - Social Media

Companies like Facebook and Instagram are luring users in by causing users to develop dangerous and even life-threatening habits with their algorithms. What once was seen as a place to connect has now turned into a toxic minefield. However, parents and young adults are now fighting back against the harms of social media use. 

How Is the Algorithm Harming Our Youth?

According to the Wall Street Journal reports, a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, leaked the company's own data—revealing how Instagram's Explore page, which serves users curated posts from a wide range of accounts, pushes users towards content that can be harmful.
 
Only last week, lawsuits were filed in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. Along with addressing the harms detailed during the hearing in October. 5, 2021, before the U.S. Senate, entitled "Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower," the lawsuits also alleged more recent accounts where excessive exposure to social platforms like Facebook and Instagram has led to harmful and life-threatening injuries, such as eating disorders, sleeplessness, and attempted or actual suicide.
 
The eight lawsuit complaints claimed that both Facebook and Instagram designed their products to be addictive and to manipulate their users, purposely ignoring their extensive knowledge of the severely damaging psychological effects of continued exposure to these platforms. According to the journal, the leaked documents showed a data presentation that was allegedly presented to Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The presentation included slides with information summarizing research about teen girls who experience such issues. "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls," one slide stated. Another slide mentioned how young adults had blamed Instagram for the increase in their anxiety and depression. According to the presentation, "The reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups." The leaked documents also revealed among those young adults who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users had traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.

Can I Protect Myself or My Child From Social Media Algorithms?

The simple answer is yes. 
 
While Meta and other tech companies have built systems to keep their users coming back for more, it is not impossible to shield yourself or your loved ones from becoming victims of social media algorithms. According to a Meta spokesperson, the company has developed multiple processes and tools that are currently in place on their platforms to help parents keep track of their children's activity on Instagram and set time limits. Along with their tools, they've also created what they call "Take a Break" reminders to help nudge users to take time off their social media apps. However, it still bodes the question as to why their so-called "break methods" are not enough to help users build healthy boundaries away from their sites. 
 
For those looking for an outside solution to creating space from their use or their child's time on these addictive social media platforms, below we have listed some of the most common methods:

  • Restrict phone use during the day
  • Have phone-free meal times
  • Using parental lock on social media sites
  • Removing social media apps from your devices
  • Leave your phone outside your bedroom at night

While these methods realistically can take time to help you detox from the use of your social apps, with time and dedication, you can see some improvement in your overall health. 

What Are the Signs of Injury From Social Media Algorithms?

While we know how to treat the harmful side effects of social media use, unfortunately, in these cases, spotting the injuries can be a complex road to navigate. Below we have broken down some of the most common signs you should look out for when trying to see if you or your child have been negatively affected by social media algorithms.

  • Causing self-harming behavior, like attempted suicide
  • Developed a disorder like bulimia, body dysmorphia, ADD/ADHD
  • Spending a significant amount of time on social media
  • Spending time with others to use social media
  • Using social media as a way to cope with negative emotions
  • Spending less time doing other activities or hobbies
  • Feeling dejected or distant from friends or loved ones 

For over 30 years, Morgan & Morgan has been helping victims like you get the justice they deserve. If you believe you or someone you know has sustained injuries due to social media, don't wait. Contact our attorneys today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for compensation.