Teens and Social Media
An article by TIME titled Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright states, “It’s hard for many adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screens on their phones.” The article also quotes an American teen named Faith-Ann, who says, “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all. We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”
How Many Teens Use Social Media
The landscape of social media is everchanging, especially among teens who often are on the leading edge of this space. A new Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers ages 13 to 17-years-old finds that:
- 95% of teens have access to a smartphone
- The top five online platforms used by teens are: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook
- 36% of teens say they spend too much time of social media
Positive Effects of Social Media on Teens
Let’s face it: The reality is that the internet and social media are not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s important to remember that teens experience social media in various ways, which means it’s not always negative.
A recent healthline.com article quotes Jaclyn Halpern, PsyD, director of the SOAR program at Washington Behavioral Medicine Associates, “Social media use increased during the pandemic for many young people. In many cases, it became the primary source of social connection for tweens and teens who were otherwise unable to socialize with their friends.” Halpern notes that social media can have multiple benefits for young people “all of which can be empowering, entertaining, and social.” These include:
- Connecting to others with similar interests
- Learning about new topics and hobbies
- Building identity
- Encouraging social and political engagement
- Learning about others
Dangers of Social Media for Teens
For some parents, the thought of social media, or anything to do with technology for that matter, is a terrifying subject to discuss with their teens. That’s why a campaign called Wait Until 8th has parents across the nation banding together to delay giving their children a smartphone until at least 8th grade.
There are various factors why social media negatively affects teens. According to an article on verywellfamily.com, “For many tweens and teens, social media can become almost addictive. In a study by researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center, they found that certain regions of teen brains became activated by ‘likes’ on social media, sometimes causing them to want to use social media more.”
The article also states, “Undoubtedly, social networking plays a vital role in broadening teen social connections and helping them learn valuable technical skills. But what impact is all this social networking having on young teen minds? Most reports indicate that the impact can be significant. Not only are teens’ developing brains vulnerable to so much time online, but because they often have difficulty self-regulating their screen time, their risks can increase with the more time they spend. Additionally, they are more susceptible to peer pressure, cyberbullying and sexting—all activities involving digital communication—making navigating the online social world treacherous at times.”
Social media also comes with lots of risks according to the healthline.com article, including:
- FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
- Exposure to inappropriate, upsetting, or even traumatic content
- Access to inaccurate information
- Exposure to online predators
- Exposure to cyberbullying
A recent ExpressVPN survey of 1,500 GenZ Americans reveals the extent of this generation’s social media fixation. The survey found that 86% of those ages 16 to 24-years-old reported that social media directly negatively impacts their happiness. Additional results include the following:
- 85% reported negative effects on self-esteem
- 85% reported negative effects on self-image
- 83% reported an increase in anxiety
- 81% reported an increase in loneliness
- 79% reported an increase in depression
How Parents Can Help Manage Social Media Use
Most parents do not realize that their own voice is the strongest influence in their child’s life. The healthline.com article says, “By starting a simple conversation with your kids around social media, you may find they’re already thinking about it. That means you can step in to provide encouragement, support, and a listening ear.”
“Here are five ways you can manage your family’s social media:
- Find balance: It’s vital for young people to find a balance between the online world and the real world, and parents can lead by example. Model appropriate screen time and social media use.
- Real world activities: Encourage kids and teens to engage in activities with family and friends in the real world. They can go to the movies, a local park, a public pool, or even make video calls to friends and family who are far away.
- Create phone-free zones: Designate a specific place or two in the home to be 100% phone-free. This can be the dinner table to encourage mealtime conversation or the bedroom to support healthy bedtime habits.
- Make it a game: Rather than penalizing kids for too much social media use, you can incentivize them to use less. With tracking apps like Social Fever and StayFree, you can see just how much time you and your family spend on social media. You can offer rewards to the family member who uses theirs the least, like getting to choose the next restaurant for takeout or what you’ll do for the weekend family outing. This empowers youth to get involved in the management of their social media use and gives them a positive alternative, like their favorite eats or some quality family time.
- Take a break: Ever heard of a social media detox? You and your family can try one together. You simply set an amount of time you’ll be taking a break from social media and stick to it, kids included. It could be just one day to start. As you and your family find yourselves reaching for your phones, you can support each other in choosing other connection-based activities instead. Break out the board games, take a walk around the neighborhood, or cook a meal together.”
Book a YES Technology & Social Media Safety Program!
Connected – Creating A More Positive Online World is our newest Wellness Education program. Presented with age-appropriate content (3rd-5th grades, 6th-8th grades, 9th-12th grades), students will be made aware that the power to minimize cyberbullying and positively impact the internet is in their hands. This program covers critical topics such as: cyberbullying, online safety, sexting, cyberstalking, human trafficking, and doxing (posting your own or someone else’s private information online).
Want to learn more about our student technology and social media safety programs? Please send us a message through our Book Now page, and someone from our YES team will be in touch with you within 1 business day.