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PRESS RELEASE -
‘Meta must do better’ Global experts call for Zuckerberg to act on adolescent wellbeing 

Published on
5 Dec 2021
Academics from around the world urge Mark Zuckerberg to commit to better research on the mental health of children and adolescents in an open letter.
Meta and its apps on phone
Image by sdx15 / Shutterstock.com

A group of academics from universities across the world  and a number of influential signatories have joined forces to send an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The letter urges Zuckerberg to act now and establish new research practices to better investigate whether using Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram has any effect on the mental health of children and adolescents.

The global coalition, facilitated by Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, believes that the way Meta is studying the mental health of youth falls short of basic standards in mental health science. The coalition believes that Meta’s approach needs to change.  Their call for better research follows recent leaks showing the company had undertaken research into how Instagram was affecting teenagers but had not published the work.

“In principle, we applaud that Meta tries to understand how its platforms may be impacting the mental health of young people. However, the work is not only methodologically questionable, it is also conducted in secret,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski. “That’s why such studies are misguided and, in their present state, doomed to fail.”

Instead, the global coalition of academics is calling for immediate changes in how Meta studies child and adolescent wellbeing.  In their open letter published today, the coalition sets out three clear actions for Meta’s CEO and executives to implement now. These three actions are necessary, the coalition urges, for scientists, policymakers, journalists, parents, and users to better understand how online platforms influence our mental health.

Commit to gold standard transparency on child and adolescent mental health research  – Independent and transparent reviews of all past, present, and future research on child and adolescent mental health is needed – including research conducted in the Global North,  South, and conflict areas.

Contribute to independent research on child and adolescent mental health around the globe – Data collected by Meta on how people use their platforms should be shared with large-scale cohort studies of young people and should be contributed to global studies of child and adolescent mental health, working with researchers worldwide, particularly in the Global South.

Establish an independent oversight trust for child and adolescent mental health on Meta platforms – A new oversight board is needed to scientifically vet the risks and benefits of social media to mental health and promote evidence-based solutions on a worldwide scale.

The global coalition of scholars is seeking to build a broad alliance of international experts and welcomes voices from other academics and those working in industry, charities, NGOs, campaigning groups, and the voluntary sector to help drive change for a better understanding of the online world and its effects on users.

Adds Professor Przybylski;

“Understanding and supporting youth mental health in the digital age is a bigger challenge than any one person, company or team can tackle.  We believe Meta’s platforms have the potential to play an important role in impacting billions of young people for the common good.  This global challenge requires a global solution.  Meta can do better and we’re willing to help.”

For more information call +44 (0)1865 287 210 or contact  press@oii.ox.ac.uk

 

Notes to Editors

The letter is available in the following languages:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • German
  • French
  • Hebrew
  • Finnish
  • Russian
  • Chinese (traditional)
  • Chinese (simplified)

Contributors:

  • Andrew K. Przybylski, University of Oxford; United Kingdom
  • Niklas Johannes, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Matti Vuorre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Matías Dodel, Universidad Católica del Uruguay; Uruguay
  • Camila Gottlieb, Universidad Católica del Uruguay, Uruguay
  • Linda K. Kaye, Edge Hill University; United Kingdom
  • Brittany I. Davidson, University of Bath; United Kingdom
  • David A. Ellis, University of Bath; United Kingdom
  • Douglas A. Parry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Candice L. Odgers, University of California, USA
  • Craig J.R. Sewall, University of Pittsburgh, USA
  • Peter J. Etchells, Bath Spa University, United Kingdom
  • Rana Abbas, Ono Academic College, Israel
  • Meyran Boniel-Nissim, Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Israel
  • Wilbert Law, The Educational University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Séverine Erhel, Université Rennes 2, France
  • Andrea L. Howard, Carleton University, Canada
  • Kathryn Modecki, Griffith University, Australia
  • Amy Orben, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

About the OII

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet. Drawing from many different disciplines, the OII works to understand how individual and collective behaviour online shapes our social, economic and political world. Since its founding in 2001, research from the OII has had a significant impact on policy debate, formulation and implementation around the globe, as well as a secondary impact on people’s wellbeing, safety and understanding. Drawing on many different disciplines, the OII takes a combined approach to tackling society’s big questions, with the aim of positively shaping the development of the digital world.

 

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