Being a teen isn't easy, and when you throw social media into the mix it can get even trickier. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat have made online bullying even more prevalent for the age group — in fact, it is estimated that 5.4 million young people in the UK have been the victims of cyberbullying. Instagram is trying to change that.
Earlier this year, Instagram rolled out a feature powered by artificial intelligence that warns users when their comments may be considered harmful or offensive and gives them a chance to delete or reword the remark (or leave it unchanged). Now, the app is expanding this feature to include warnings for in-feed photo and video posts as well.
“In our continued effort to lead the industry in the fight against online bullying, we are launching a new feature that asks people to reflect on a post that may contain bullying before it's posted," a spokesperson from Facebook, which owns Instagram, told Refinery29. "If our artificial intelligence detects potential bullying in a caption, we will give people the option to pause and reconsider the post before it is shared with the community.”
"As our community grows, so does our investment in technology," Instagram says on their website. "This is especially crucial for teens since they are less likely to report online bullying even when they are the ones who experience it the most.
Instagram has also been experimenting taking away likes from users' profiles in an effort to make the platform a better space for your mental health. "The idea is to depressurise Instagram, make it less of a competition," Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said at the Wired 25 Conference, CNN reported.
It’s still too early to confirm that initiatives like hiding likes and post warnings will positively affect someone's mental state. Still, “there is much evidence to prove that social media does negatively impact a user’s mental health and can often lead to anxiety, depression, bullying, poor sleep, negative body image, and more,” says Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, the Executive Director of teen treatment centre Newport Academy's North California location.
With this expanded feature, Instagram aims to combat bullying head-on and make the platform a safer space for users.
"For me, Instagram is a place where I can engage with friends and share about politics, design and other interests," says Sam, a student at New York University. "I think Feed Post Caption Warning could be really powerful because it gives people a certain level of responsibility — in which they're given an opportunity to consider whether they really want to post something that could be considered hurtful or offensive."
Instagram hopes that this warning will help educate people on what is and isn't allowed on the platform. This feature will be rolling out in select countries and will begin expanding globally in the coming months.