Bullying follows children home from school and carries on in their bedrooms at night via Instagram, a whistleblower has claimed.
Frances Haugen, a former employee of the tech giant who has come forward with explosive revelations about the firm, told MPs and peers that Facebook’s own research suggested Instagram is dangerous for young people.
She said the firm has the ability to make a “huge dent” on the problem if they wanted to but they do not because “young users are the future of the platform and the earlier they get them the more likely they’ll get them hooked”.
“When I was in high school, it didn’t matter if your experience in high school was horrible, most kids had good homes to go home to and they could at the end of the day disconnect, they would get a break for 16 hours,” she explained.
“Facebook’s own research says now the bullying follows children home, it goes into their bedrooms.
“The last thing they see at night is someone being cruel to them.
“The first thing they see in the morning is a hateful statement and that is just so much worse.”
She claimed that the firm’s own research found that Instagram is more dangerous than other social media such as TikTok and Snapchat, because the platform is focused on “social comparison about bodies, about people’s lifestyles, and that’s what ends up being worse for kids”.
Ms Haugen also cast doubt on whether Instagram could ever be made safe for children.
At present, you must be at least 13 years old to use the service, though it is easy for users to lie about their age.
Facebook was developing an Instagram Kids specifically for children but the idea was put on hold earlier this year due to the raft of concerns.
“I am deeply worried that it may not be possible to make Instagram safe for 14-year-olds and I sincerely doubt it is possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old,” Ms Haugen said.
“What I find very deeply misleading about Facebook’s statements regarding children is they say things like, ‘we need Instagram Kids because kids are going to lie about their age, and so we might as well have a safe thing for them’.
“Facebook should have to publish what they do to detect 13-year-olds on the platform because I guarantee what they’re doing today is not enough.
“Facebook can guess how old you are with a great deal of precision.”