In 2020, a surge in depression and mental health issues was observed due to the effects of the global pandemic–especially among the demographic group of teens aged 13-18. There has been an alarming increase in behavior linked to these mental health issues among the youth. Based on insurance claims in the USA, there has been a reported 84% increase in anxiety; 94% increase in depression; 119% increase in overdosing; and 91% increase in self-harm, with some more isolated areas of the USA experiencing an increase of up to 300%.
Many of the teens from this age group spend a significant amount of their time online, and unfortunately, many engage in unsafe or self-harming behavior on social media, or become increasingly exposed to triggering or enabling content. Teens create private groups to discuss eating disorders and promote unhealthy views of their bodies, using slang and code words to bypass content moderators. “Challenges” or “games” that involve dangerous and even violent behavior quickly go viral among teens on social media, especially with the recent rise of short form content.
These problems are rampant and have serious repercussions, and thus require more stringent, proactive moderation and decisive action from online platforms. However, most messaging services and search engines today lack clear self-harm policies. Many platforms similarly have gaps in their policies regarding sensitive issues, including viral content or behavior that poses risks to users. To make matters worse, these platforms lack disclaimers and help resources to assist affected users and their loved ones, and lack efficient, easy-to-access reporting flows for those who encounter egregious content.
After doing a deep dive into these trends, TaskUs’ Policy Research Lab has developed several recommendations for online platforms in an effort to mitigate harm among users, especially younger demographics:
The TaskUs Policy Research Lab provides consultative and value-add services in Trust & Safety and Content Moderation. We service a wide range of policy areas and content types, with the end goal of helping create a safer internet for all.