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Whistleblower brings attention to Facebook and Instagram affecting young people's mental health

"Young girls are susceptible to social media and a lot of it relates to comparison."

SAN DIEGO — Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee turned whistleblower told Congress Tuesday that social media giants Facebook and Instagram are affecting young people’s mental health.

"I think they would get rid of engagement-based ranking because it is causing teenagers to be exposed to more anorexia content," said Haugen.

She said after viewing this content, young girls actually use the app even more.

"It can become very addicting. I tend to go onto an app, I find myself scrolling, and then am like 'why am I doing this?'" said social media user, Stacey Yang.

Dr. Willough Jenkins, Medical Director of Inpatient Psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital said most young people are on these social media platforms for nine hours a day.

"Young girls are susceptible to social media and a lot of it relates to comparison. They see the highlights and perfectly curated images or comments. This makes them feel lower self-esteem about body image," said Dr. Jenkins.

An internal study states 13.5% of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls say it makes eating disorders worse.

Parents are concerned.

"For parents, I have heard outrage and shock," said Dr. Jenkins.

"There has to be a moral compass here," said parent, Eileen Seemayer.

"Facebook knows that parents today because they didn't experience these things, they never experience this addictive experience with a piece of technology. They give their children bad advice. They say things like, 'why don't you just stop using it?'" said Haugen.

Dr. Jenkins said it's important for parents to share an open dialogue with their kids.

"Encourage positive use of social media. Add four influential female role models so you can see positive people as opposed to negative people," said Dr. Jenkins.

Dr. Jenkins also said too much time on the apps can cause problems with sleep and cause anxiety and depression. She suggests limiting time on social media to two hours a day or less.

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