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Facebook Testimony Waking Some to Hazards of Social Media For Kids

MENLO PARK (KPIX) -- During testimony on Capitol Hill, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen claimed the company chooses to let content on its platform that is "disastrous" for society, and can be especially harmful to children.

The allegation, a cause for concern to Bay Area resident Eileen Seemayer.

"Just as a citizen and human to human, of course it's a concern. The algorithm is driven to make money," said Seemayer.

Stacey Yang explains an experience most people have had at some point while on social media.

"It can become very addicting. I tend to go onto an app, I find myself scrolling, and then am like, 'Why am I doing this?'" she said.

During her testimony Tuesday, Haugen claimed Facebook and Instagram algorithms can quickly lead teenagers from innocent topics to content that could contribute to body image problems and eating disorders. She also said the company's executives are aware of that risk.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before Senate committee | full video by CBS News on YouTube

"There has to be a moral compass here," Seemayer said.

Jim Steyer, the CEO of advocacy organization for children Common Sense Media, says he sees this as a "day of reckoning" for the social media giant.

"I think for well over a decade, Facebook and Instagram and the leadership of the company have prioritized profits over people. And that has particularly been at the expense of children," Steyer said.

He hopes parents will use this moment as a launchpad for conversations with their children.

"I would talk about how there is a magic appearance on platforms like Instagram where everyone looks beautiful all the time and how celebrities airbrush and photoshop their images," he said. "I think, as a parent, it's incredibly important to have a conversation on an ongoing basis with your children. Talk about their fears. Talk about their feelings. Listen to them."

Yang says if she were a parent, she'd consider limiting her kids' time on social media.

"I feel like it would benefit them a lot," she said.

Dr. Sarah Adler, a clinical psychologist and professor at Stanford University's Department of Psychiatry, says the situation is incredibly complex and there isn't a single solution. While social media has shown to have the ability to negatively impact some people's mental health, it can also be very beneficial to others, she says.

"Lets actually use our scientific minds and better understand for whom social media is potentially harmful," Adler said. "There are amazing studies that have actually showed how you can harness social media and technology for marginalized populations and communities as a lifeline to promote mental health. But the problem is, irresponsibly - like anything else - and not used in moderation, we're going to come up with problems."

She's hopeful the testimony on Capitol Hill will lead to good.

"My hope is that Facebook - and organizations that are responsible for information that is put out there into the world - really do continue to do good science and research on how what they're doing is impacting their user and their consumer," she said.


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