The Effects of Social Media on Teens
By Kenza Bey, Miriam Spak (Freshmen)
It is undeniable that all teenagers have come into contact with social media in some way. Though it is largely a technology of the twenty-first century, its popularity has transformed teenage life. This provides today’s adolescents with a unique perspective and set of tools; we are growing up in a completely different landscape than that of our parents. This relatively new social technology, however, comes with the potential for misunderstanding and misinformation. From a senator asking about “banning finsta” to a former president trying to ban the platform TikTok entirely, it is clear that many adults have negative opinions on social media and how it will affect the youth of today. This is not entirely unwarranted. Cases of depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, or cyberbullying in this generation are frequently highlighted by the media. This is why programs like Safe2Say, a youth violence protection program, have been created. Programs like this that recognize youth needs while also reducing the negative effects of social media can help us realize the true benefits of virtual communication.
For current high schoolers, being active on at least one social media platform is expected, and not having social media is a divergence from the norm. A recent survey published by Common Sense Media revealed that, on average, teens spend nearly nine hours online a day. The report states that “between 2019 and 2021, the total amount of screen media used each day went…from seven hours and twenty-two minutes to eight hours and thirty-nine minutes among teens. This is a much faster increase in just two years than was seen in the previous four years.” While the pandemic is a likely cause of this shift, this dramatic leap means that the average teenager spends nearly half of their waking hours on social media. Teenagers at our school are also avid users of social media, with Freshman Sydney Pellegrino stating that she spends “five or six hours” on social media per day. Freshman Kailyn Ashley-Thompson told us that she is “on social media 25/8… in school, out of school.”
With today’s youth spending such substantial amounts of time online, it is hard not to wonder if this lifestyle has significant negative effects. Sydney stated that her mood often changes after using social media. “Sometimes I’ll see things that are either really discouraging, or something that makes me feel like I’m not alone,” she told us. She referred to how social media can bring people together and provide a sense of community.
While teenagers might not take issue with their time on social media, parents often do. According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, sixty-five percent of parents worry their teen spends too much time on screens. There is a clear divide between how adults and teenagers think, so how do we bridge it? Hopefully, programs like Safe2Say will help both parties adapt to a virtual future. Regardless of the answer, the best course of action is for teenagers to continue striving to communicate with those around us in a healthy, productive way.