The boss of Instagram is meeting the Health Secretary this week to discuss the platform’s handling of content promoting suicide and self-harm.

The social media site has come under scrutiny after links were made between the suicide of teenager Molly Russell and her exposure to harmful material.

Molly took her own life in 2017 and her family found content surrounding suicide on her Instagram soon after.

“Instagram can really negatively impact young people.”
Jane Oakley, Mental health specialist 

Mental health specialist Jane Oakley says, “Instagram can really negatively impact young people, particularly if they’ve got autism or any kind of learning disability”.

Instagram’s boss, Adam Mosseri, has proposed introducing ‘sensitivity screens’ which block content until users agree to look at them.

The screens will mean content including #selfharm will carry a warning that clicking on them will open sensitive and disturbing images.

Jane Oakley’s view on ‘sensitivity screens’.

A recent study by Flint found that since 2016 Instagram has enjoyed a steady growth of 12%, clearly highlighting it’s prominence in our lives.

Many support the use of social media. Misha Pandit uses the platform to brand herself; “It’s almost a portfolio to show companies and employers”.

Misha Pandit, Instagram influencer discussing the benefits of Instagram on mental health.

  • Instagram is rated as the worst social media platform when it comes to its impact on young people’s mental health.
  • 91% of 16-24 year-olds in the UK use the internet and other social networking sites regularly.
  • Rates of depression and anxiety in young people have increased by 70% over the last 25 years.
  • According to a report produced by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is working to better protect children on social media. Following his meeting with Mosseri a government white paper will set out social media companies responsibilities to its users.

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