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How To Protect Our Children From Psychological Malignancies On Social Media - Part 2

In part 2 of the Phil in the Blanks podcast about the dangers of social media content, Dr. Phil continues his discussion with Imran Ahmed, Founder and CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. They discuss social media companies not taking accountability for third-party content, building awareness of this gross neglect, and more.

Social media is full of wonderful opportunities for people to connect. It is also filled with people who push identity-based hate, extremism, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. Imran Ahmed joins Dr. Phil on his Phil in the Blanks podcast to discuss psychological malignancies on social media – and how to protect our children against them.

ABOUT: The Center for Countering Digital Hate counters hate and disinformation, by disrupting the online architecture enabling its rapid worldwide growth. Digital technology has changed the way we communicate, build and maintain relationships, set social standards, and negotiate and assert our society’s values. Digital spaces, however, are often safe for bad actors spreading hate and disinformation, turning them into a hostile environment for others. Over time these bad actors, advocating diverse causes – from misogyny and racism to denial of science and conspiracy theories – have mastered using these platforms to cause considerable real-world harm.


Help counter Hate + Misinformation

Donate today and together we can counter the bad actors and platforms that spread hate and misinformation. MAKE A DONATION HERE

Part 2: On the dangers of social media content, Dr. Phil and Imran Ahmed discuss social media companies not taking accountability for third-party content and more.



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Guest Social Links


TikTok Parents Guide: TikTok pushes harmful content into young users’ feeds. Download:

Deadly By Design: Deadly by Design – our new report – will help provide parents and policymakers insight into the TikTok content and algorithms shaping young lives today.

"Despite TikTok’s popularity, many parents are unclear about how it works or the potential dangers of the platform." @CCDHate @Imi_Ahmed

Following the tragic loss of Molly in 2017, the Russell family and their friends set-up a charitable foundation in Molly’s memory.

The aim of the Molly Rose Foundation is suicide prevention, targeted towards young people under the age of 25.

MRF wants to help reach those at risk of suicide and connect them to the help, support, and practical advice they need. Source:


Photos By: The Russell Family

Help is available: Speak with someone today. CALL: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish

SMS: 988


Imran Ahmed

Chief Executive Officer

Imran Ahmed is the founder and CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate US/UK. He is an authority on social and psychological malignancies on social media, such as identity-based hate, extremism, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. He regularly appears on the media and in documentaries as an expert in how bad actors use digital spaces to harm others and benefit themselves, as well as how and why bad platforms allow them to do so. He advises politicians around the world on policy and legislation. Imran was inspired to start the Center after seeing the rise of antisemitism on the left in the United Kingdom and the murder of his colleague, Jo Cox MP, by a white supremacist, who had been radicalized in part online, during the EU Referendum in 2016. He holds an MA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Imran lives in Washington DC, and tweets at @Imi_Ahmed.



Deadly by Design Stats

Statistics on TikTok usage and Instagram

  • Two-thirds of American teenagers use TikTok, and the average viewer spends 80 minutes a day on the application.

“How TikTok Ate the Internet”, Washington Post, 14 October 2022.

  • Figures are similar for Instagram; 62% of U.S. teens use the app, and 1 in 10 report using it “almost constantly”

Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022”, Pew Research Center, 10 August 2022,

  • A systematic review of research done in the field of social media and eating disorders reported that time spent on social media was “strongly related” to the development of an eating disorder

NB - this relationship has not been fully explored and therefore we can’t state that the time spent on social media caused the eating disorder, just that they are correlated

  • 21% of teenage girls in the U.S. feel Instagram has negatively impacted how they feel about themselves. The figure was 14% for teenage boys.

“Instagram and its effects on mental health according to teens in the United States and United Kingdom in 2019”, Statista, 15 December 2021,

(Padín, P. F., González-Rodríguez, R., Verde-Diego, C., & Vázquez-Pérez, R. (2021). Social media and eating disorder psychopathology: A systematic review. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(3).

The Haugen revelations on Instagram and the research Meta did

[We should add a bit of detail on this particular paper in extra bullet points. Not sure if there were actually other relevant leaks etc.]

  • We know from the Facebook Papers, internal documents leaked by former Meta employee Frances Haugen, that Instagram had evidence that teens who struggle with mental health say using the platform made it worse, in part because of “pressure to conform to social stereotypes… and body shapes of influencers”.

“Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show”, Wall Street Journal, 14 September 2021,

Prevalence of eating disorders and self harm amongst minors

  • A study that followed girls through adolescence found that 13.2% of them had suffered from an eating disorder by the age of 20 [2]

  • Young people with anorexia are at a ten times greater risk of dying than their peers [3]

  • Nearly 1 in 4 teenage girls surveyed had injured themselves deliberately in the last 12 months [4]

  • 17% of teens have self-harmed at least once [5]

  • Mental health indicators suggest a deterioration in the well-being of girls and young women in the U.S. As shown by the graph below, this negative trend increases rapidly following the launch of platforms such as Instagram in 2010-2011

Indicators of poor mental health among U.S. girls and young women, 2001-2018, taken from Twenge, 2020 [6]

[2] Stice E, Marti CN, Shaw H, and Jaconis M. (2010). An 8-year longitudinal study of the natural history of threshold, subthreshold, and partial eating disorders from a community sample of adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(3):587-97. doi: 10.1037/a0016481.
[3] Fichter, M. M., & Quadflieg, N. (2016). Mortality in eating disorders‐results of a large prospective clinical longitudinal study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(4), 391-401.
[4] Monto, M. A., McRee, N., & Deryck, F. S. (2018). Nonsuicidal self-injury among a representative sample of US adolescents, 2015. American journal of public health, 108(8), 1042-1048.
[5] “Self-Harm Statistics and Facts”, The Recovery Village, 2 May 2022,
[6] Twenge, J. M. (2020). Increases in depression, self‐harm, and suicide among US adolescents after 2012 and links to technology use: possible mechanisms. Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice, 2(1), 19-25.

Overall prevalence of eating disorders and self-harm

● Eating disorders are most prevalent at age 21 [7]

● Suicide is more prevalent from age 25 onwards [8]

● About 5% of adults self-harm, although rates are highest for teens and college students [9]

[7] Ward ZJ, Rodriguez P, Wright DR, Austin SB, Long MW. Estimation of Eating Disorders Prevalence by Age and Associations With Mortality in a Simulated Nationally Representative US Cohort. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(10):e1912925. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.12925 [8] “Suicide statistics”, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, retrieved 15 November 2022, [9] “Self-Harm Statistics and Facts”, The Recovery Village, 2 May 2022,

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