By Summer Creeden
In decades past, teenagers grew up deviceless. To communicate with each other, they would have to dial their friends’ phone numbers on the home landline, and hope that their parents did not pick up the phone. Nowadays, the means of communication between teenagers have drastically changed. Twenty first century teens spend hours every day on common social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. About 95% of teenagers in the U.S. have access to a smartphone, and 45% report that they are online constantly. In some ways, this has been a good thing. Social media provides a much easier way to spread information quickly and keep in touch with friends and family. It is also a place where people can make new friends and find communities that they feel welcomed in. However, social media is not in all ways good. Recent studies have shown the negative impact of social media on the minds of teenagers.
While social media has brought many changes to the daily life of a teenager, many of these changes may be for the better. In 2018, Pew Research Center did a study on social media and its impact on teens. This study of almost 750 13-17 year olds showed that 31% of teens believed that social media had a mostly positive effect on them. Among these people who view it as positive, 40% say that they like being able to connect with family and friends easily. When asked about why she likes social media, one anonymous EGHS student responded, “I am able to get into contact with people, especially people from other schools. For example on Snapchat, you are able to add people from other schools. If you stay connected, you can meet up [in person] and become friends.” This is true. These apps and platforms allow people to get into contact with each other without ever having to ask for a phone number in person first. This allows for so much more opportunity to meet new people.
Social media may make everyday chatting with friends much easier than how it may have been in the past, but it certainly has its negative effects on teens as well. The 2018 Pew Research Center study on social media reports that 24% of teens find social media to negatively impact them. Cyberbullying, lack of in-person contact, and unrealistic views of other people’s lives are quite apparent on these apps. “I’m always telling myself, ‘You don’t look good enough. You don’t look like that person on Instagram. Look at her, she was at the party last night,’” says a EGHS student. The constant comparison that happens every day between people online is horrifying. What is sad is that most of the time, the people teens find themselves comparing themselves to are not even real. People only post the good parts of their lives in an attempt to look perfect on the outside. These unrealistic views of other people’s lives are detrimental to the mental health of a teenager.
Whether one believes it to be good or bad, social media has made a lasting influence on today’s youth, and it will continue to play an important role in the lives of many for years to come. Present day teenagers are growing up very differently than how their parents and grandparents grew up. Connecting easily with friends and meeting new people sounds great in theory, but there are also great consequences of this. Some downsides of social media are bullying and comparison of oneself to unrealistic images of another. If it is worth it to be able to communicate quickly and easily, at the cost of deteriorating mental health in teenagers, that is up to each individual to decide.
Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang. Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018. 31 May 2018, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/.