by Madi A.
The biggest trend for the youth of today has been, without much doubt, social media. Teens are constantly staring into the rectangular devices they carry with them everywhere, but what is really going on within the digital universe? What are they so desperate to see every time their notifications go off? And do they really know the effects that social media is having on them?
Not many people (when asked in real time) have ever thought to consider the influence that social media apps like Snapchat or TikTok have on not just today's teens but on those younger than them. In a survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, where people ages 14-21 were asked how social media platforms impact their health and well-being, found that all platforms can and have led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness
And not only is social media impacting teens mental health, but it is hindering an essential aspect of living. Social Skills. And not how fast you respond to a chat or how many likes your post gets. Communication is one of the biggest parts of being human, so when kids' faces are shoved into screens they are not learning the crucial skills of being able to understand others.
Social media isn’t just hindering growth and development but it gives kids anonymity so they can be cruel to one another in ways that would never be acceptable if they were talking to each other face to face in person. Donna Wick, EdD told Child Mind Institute “Kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face….You hope to teach them that they can disagree without jeopardizing the relationship, but what social media is teaching them to do is disagree in ways that are more extreme and do jeopardize the relationship. It’s exactly what you don’t want to have happen.” Kids have always had the ability to ‘gang up’ on one another, but unrestricted access to cell phones has provided them with an easy access route that is typically anonymous.
But like all things, social media does have another side to the story. In a 2022 survey of 1,316 teens in the US (aged from 13-17) 80% said social media gives them some level of connection to what is going on in their friends lives, 71% said it was a place where they could show their creativity, 67% said social media reassures them that that they have support through tough times, and 58% said they feel more accepted by their peers. As the main users themselves, teens are also more likely to be able to see the benefits of social media use than adults who typically look for the downsides.
And there is always potential for solutions to be provided to some of the problems that have arisen. Some social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have filtration systems for the comments that can be made as well as some of the posts.
However, the way some teens are using social media only comes with consequences. Another survey found that older adolescents who used social media passively (just viewing others photos and posts) reported a decline in satisfaction with life. The ‘doom scrollers’ often use social media as a distraction from real life which can in turn disrupt sleep patterns and expose them to bullying and unrealistic expectations for life. Another 2022 survey found that girls aged 15-17 were more likely than any other group to say that they don’t post on social media because they are worried about being embarrassed or ashamed.
Teens across the globe have no idea what the snaps, posts, and comments are truly doing to them as human beings.