Social media websites pushing weight-loss content material to youngsters – Research

There are new calls for increased regulation of social media sites after a new study found algorithms deliver weight loss messages to teenagers.

The study saw researchers Set up a number of “Mystery Shopper” Instagram accounts to mirror those of real children.

Then they started liking certain posts to see how quickly the network’s algorithm would start spreading malicious content.

In one case, the material transferred to a profile for a 17-year-old girl changed radically after she clicked two links on the subject of weight loss. The account’s exploration feed began to offer significantly more content related to weight loss, exercise, body contouring, and Photoshoped body imagery.

The researchers found similar results in profiles created for a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.

Study shows social media sites relaying weight loss messages to teenagers

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At the Newstalk breakfast this morning, Alex Cooney, CEO of Cyber ​​Safe Kids, said we need a lot more regulation of social media sites.

“It’s a problem that has happened before and what we need to do is regulate it,” she said. “We need a lot more responsibility.

“An age-appropriate design code will be introduced in the UK later this year and we want it to be rolled out across the board.

“We want safe and ethical design and child-centered design to be introduced so that there is a lot more responsibility.

“We also need a good education. We need to empower young people on the internet to really question the content they come across.

“Challenging things to understand advertising, misinformation and disinformation online – we have a lot to do. This stuff kind of caught up with us, but it’s certainly not acceptable to go on. “

She said the finding is especially worrying when mixed with Cyber ​​Safe Kids research, which found that a large proportion of children under the age of 13 also use social media sites.

“We have data on eight to twelve year olds, and in our results last year, 65% of them were logged on to these sites,” she said.

“So we know that children enter the wrong age to access these services.

“This information is being passed on to them and it’s really disturbing, but there’s also this real fear of missing out – kids enjoy being there, but they don’t like the darker side.”

Here you can listen:

Study shows social media sites relaying weight loss messages to teenagers

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

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