YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki stated in a recent interview that she believes that the Google-owned video platform is actually beneficial to the mental health of its teenage users. Her statement comes in the wake of leaked Facebook internal documents showing the company has research on the toxic impact of its Instagram platform on teen girls.
Bloomberg reports that during a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki stated that the Google-owned video platform is beneficial to the mental health of its teen users.
Wojcicki’s comments come shortly after a report from the Wall Street Journal titled “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” in which the WSJ claims that Facebook is aware that its photo-sharing app Instagram can have a negative effect on the body image of young women.
Wojcicki commented on the effect YouTube has on its teenage users, stating: “We certainly do see for a lot of really tough issues that YouTube can be a really valuable resource. So body positivity, mental health, we see a lot of creators actually talk about mental health and that, for a lot of kids, really it destigmatizes, and enables people to talk about what’s happening and what’s going on with them. So we do take it very seriously.”
Despite Wojcicki’s confidence in the positive effects of YouTube on teen mental health, the website has faced major controversies over its handling of content for younger users. In 2019, Google and YouTube paid $170 million to the FTC and New York Attorney General for violating the privacy of child users by tracking them across the internet.
The company’s YouTube Kids app has also come under for displaying content to children featuring themes of suicide, school shootings and abuse. In 2018, it was reported last year that conspiracy theory videos were prominent on the platform. “Search for ‘UFO’ on YouTube Kids and you’ll mostly find videos of toys that are clearly fine for children to watch. But one of the top videos claimed to show a UFO shooting at a chemtrail, and we found several videos by prominent conspiracy theorist David Icke in the suggested videos,” Business Insider reported. “One suggested video was an hours-long lecture by Icke in which he claims that aliens built the pyramids, that the planet is run by reptile-human hybrids, that Freemasons engage in human sacrifice, that the assassination of President Kennedy was planned by the US government, and that humans would evolve in 2012.”
In 2019, a study examining the relationships between mental health issues and high levels of screen time showed that social media usage is linked to depression in teenagers. University of Montreal professor Patricia Conrod, who led the research team at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital commented: “What we found over and over was that the effects of social media were much larger than any of the other effects for the other types of digital screen time.”
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