Michigan joins nationwide investigation into how Instagram impacts young people

Michigan has joined a nationwide investigation into how Instagram impacts young people.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is joining a coalition of attorneys general from across the U.S. as they launch an investigation into the impact Instagram has on young people.

These days, kids’ worlds are much less about their interactions in physical places, and much more about what they see and how they interact online. Officials are now investigating if Instagram has been targeting kids specifically, knowing it could cause harm -- especially after so many people have shifted online amid the pandemic.

This week, Nessel announced that she’s joining the nationwide investigation into Instagram and its parent company Meta, formerly Facebook. Investigators believe the social media company targeted children and young adults, possibly illegally, despite the potential for harm.

“Rebranding your company does not excuse you from accepting responsibility for the harm inflicted by your social media platform,” Nessel wrote in a statement.

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The investigation follows recent revealing whistleblower testimony that shows Meta tracked the data of young adults, even though the company’s own research showed using Instagram could lead to problems like depression, eating disorders and even suicide among children.

“What’s really concerning is that experiments are being conducted to see what gets the most engagement. And so, what’s challenging is that children are trying to learn how to navigate this world, but the the cards are stacked against them,” said Dr. Sarah Domoff, clinical psychologist at Central Michigan University. “You may not even know that that you are seeing an advertisement when you’re looking through Instagram -- some of them look like real profiles.”

Domoff directs the family health lab at Central Michigan University. She says that it’s important for parents and caretakers to keep track of what children are doing online.

“Our adolescents’ worlds are online. So just like you would ask about ‘How was your day at school?’ (also ask), ‘Tell me about something fun you saw on TikTok,’ or, ‘What was your favorite thing that you saw on Instagram? Who do you like to follow?’”

Concerns over the mental health of children and young adults forced Instagram to shelf a plan to develop an Instagram app for kids younger than 13 years old. As recently as October, the CEO of Instagram said he still thought it was a good idea.

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