Instagram is making more changes to the ad experiences for teens as part of an ongoing attempt by the Meta-owned company to stop harming young people.
The platform said in a post that it will further restrict the options advertisers have to reach teens, the ads teens are shown, and more “teen-specific controls and resources.” Young people’s engagement, like who they follow and posts they like, won’t inform the types of ads they see. In February, Instagram will remove gender as an option for advertisers to reach teens.
Advertisers will also only be able to use age and location to reach teens, which, Instagram argues, helps the platform “ensure teens see ads that are meant for their age and products and services available where they live.” In March, teens will also have more ways to manage the ads they see by going to their Ad Preferences and choosing “See Less” or “No Preference.”
This comes a year after the Wall Street Journal‘s Facebook Files, in which leaked documents of Facebook’s own research found that “Instagram is harmful to a sizable percentage of [teens], most notably teenage girls.”
There is, in fact, an ongoing epidemic for young people: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after a stable period from 2000 to 2007, the rate of suicide among people 10 to 24 years old increased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017. Now, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the age group, following accidents.
Though it’s not the only potential factor, some experts attribute part of the rise in suicide among young people to social media. Instagram launched in 2010 and, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly twice as many teens said they used the internet “almost constantly” in 2018 than in 2014.
The attorneys general of 10 states are investigating Instagram’s effects on teens, and that’s just in the U.S. — the European Union has already fined Meta multiple millions of euros for allegedly mishandling privacy settings for young people.
If you’re feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to somebody. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or email [email protected]. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org. Here is a list of international resources.