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With the US Senate set to grill Facebook, the impact of social media on children's mental health has become a critical issue for schools. CNN's Clare Sebastian has more. A Facebook executive was grilled by Senators on Thursday about the impact its apps have on younger users, two weeks after an explosive report indicated the company was aware that Facebook-owned Instagram could have a "toxic" effect on teen girls.
The hearing, featuring Facebook's global head of safety, Antigone Davis, is the first of two that the Senate Commerce Committee is holding on how Facebook approaches its younger users. Next week, the committee is expected to receive testimony from a Facebook whistleblower. We know it chooses the growth of its products over the well-being of our children," Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in opening remarks at the hearing. In a of the bipartisan pressure on this issue, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn echoed Blumenthal in her opening remarks directed at Facebook.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that researchers at Facebook have been conducting studies for the past three years into how Instagram, which it owns, affects its millions of young users. The research shows the platform can damage mental health and body image, especially among teenaged girls.
Blumenthal said his office created an Instagram identifying as a year-old girl. It followed some easily discoverable s associated with extreme dieting and eating disorders. Within a day, he said, the Instagram recommendations were "exclusively filled" with other s that promoted self harm and eating disorders.
Davis said those s would be in violation of Instagram's policies that crack down on content promoting self-harm. Following the Journal report, Instagram said it was looking at new ways to discourage users from focusing on their physical appearance. The company also said that while Instagram can be a place where people have "negative experiences," the app also gives a voice to marginalized people and helps friends and family stay connected.
In fact, that's why we do this research. Davis, who identified herself as a mother and former teacher, also pushed back on the idea that the report was a "bombshell" and did not commit to releasing a full research report, noting potential "privacy considerations.
The report, and the renewed pressure from lawmakers in its aftermath, also appeared to force Instagram to rethink its plans to introduce a version of its service for kids under Days before the hearing this week, Instagram said it would press pause on the project. In the blog post Monday, Mosseri acknowledged that the Journal's reporting "has raised a lot of questions for people. All rights reserved.
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