Instagram implements new policy over posts containing weight loss products

With growing concerns about how social media platforms affect teen’s mental health, Instagram is taking steps to change perceptions and promote positive feelings and attitudes. The popular social media platform recently added a new policy where users under the age of 18 will not receive posts promoting weight loss products with “miraculous” improvements to the user’s body. Facebook has also adopted a similar strategy.

Instagram’s Public Policy Manager Emma Collins recently released a statement that outlined the new policy. Instagram will now block posts directed to teens that endorse or advertise weight loss products. To qualify to be blocked, these products must advertise non-guaranteed, and often far-reaching results. Users can report posts they feel violates the new policy which Instagram will review. This initiative by Instagram is part of a more significant effort to end content that some could consider offensive or harm teens. This includes filtering out anti-bullying, abuse, and hate speech. 

“We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it, and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media,” Collins said, as reported on CNN on Sep. 20.

Many celebrities endorse paid advertising posts for products that improve conditions from acne disorders to weight loss and often claim to have “miraculous” effects. Popular celebrity-endorsed products include diet suppressing lollipops, detox teas, and meal replacement bars. While these products may have some immediate benefits, noted doctors and specialists question the long term effects and actual success rates. Health Teacher Lauren Reineking agrees that these questionable advertisements do pose a risk to teenagers. 

“Social media, as a whole, has such a detrimental effect on our mental health. And that includes our body image and how we feel about ourselves. Looking at influencers like the Kardashians, it’s clear that they don’t look the way they look because of some tea. More often it is because of trainers and cooks. They have such an impact on the way teenagers feel about their bodies,” Reineking said.

As celebrities continue to profit from endorsing questionable products, the pressure on teens who struggle with weight loss will continue to grow as they are exposed to more items. While no one believes limiting this exposure on social media will alleviate the temptations to purchase said products, some feel its a step in the right direction.

“Someone looks at those celebrities as role models. Some teens are obsessed with looking at celebrities, and they will see what these celebrities post and want to try it for themselves. Teens should not have a mindset that they want to change their bodies because they are still young. Social media as a whole has poor effects on teen’s health, so I feel that this will help a little,” junior Medhani Kalal said.

Still, there is a concern that Instagram’s new policy will not prevent teens from finding these advertisements. “I think that is a good way that they are contributing more to the issue of lower self-esteem. If celebrities have something they are trying to push, and kids like those celebrities, then they will find other avenues to promote those products. It is a good idea in theory, but I do not think it truly solves the problem,” Reineking said.