As times change, the use of technology social media is becoming more and more normalized, especially with younger children. According to Rachel Ehmke, a senior editor at the Child Mind Institute, the rates of social media usage are extremely high. She claims that as on 2018, about one-third of the worlds population, which is 3.1 billion people, use social media (Ehmke). Believe it or not, some portion of this is younger children. If you think back to when you were little, do you remember living in a world where social media played a prominent role in your day to day life? Of course, you probably do not, and the same goes for most people as well.
However, in recent years, young children having easy access to technology and social media is becoming more and more visible. Many young kids are given screen time, and even have their own portable devices such as iPads, cell phones, computers, and video game consoles. According to research, it is believed that for many people today, social media use often begins early in adolescence and continues to increase into young adulthood (The truth About Social Media Addiction).
This means that parents giving their young children such easy, unfiltered access to different social media platforms can more or less contribute to an addiction, or uncanny behavior shown in their children.
While the use of social media by children may not seem too alarming, it is posing a lot of threats for their social lives, and their overall mental health.
In an article discussing the social stigma of it all, Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect, talks about the social skills that kids are missing out on, due to increased time spent on online platforms. She poses that the concept of texting, and online communicating has rendered some sort of nonverbal disabled context in which there is no need for the same aspects in an online conversation compared to that of a face-to-face conversation (Ehmke). Certain gestures such as smiling, laughing, touching, eye contact, and even more, regarding face-to-face contact are not required in online communication. Kids are able to have conversations in which they are not required to show real emotion, and when kids start these sort of tendencies at a young age, they never learn these skills that they will definitely need later in life.
When the word addiction comes to mind, most people think of an alcohol addiction, or a drug addiction. The last thing that probably comes to peoples minds is a social media addiction. Despite what some may say, a social media addiction is very real, and very easy to develop. The easy access that people have to different online platforms is playing a very large role in people forming addictions. They have the easiest access through smartphones (Griffiths). Today, just about any phone that you purchase will in some way be able to access apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social media apps. Other than maybe a flip phone, you can access social media on any device, and if you really think about it, how many people do you see walking around with a flip phone in the 21st century?
Up until maybe about 10 years ago, the way it was for most people was that what you saw was what you got. People did not have any sort of outlet to control the way people saw them. Nowadays, people can use social media to portray a lifestyle that they do not necessarily live, but want people to think that they do. People are able to photoshop their pictures, repost pictures from other people, and lie about their true identity online. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can have extremely negative effects on the follower of that person, whether their online identity is real or not. According to Katie Hurley, the people controlling the way they are viewed online are affecting followers and viewers. She claims, because people tend to post only the positive things that they experience, or make light of the bad with funny little anecdotes, it can appear to the reader that other people lead more exciting lives than they do (Hurley). Often times, when someone is scrolling through their social media feeds, they do not want to feel ashamed of the lives they live, but celebrities online can pose the idea that they are living better lives than their followers. Although they do not have bad intentions when they post a picture of themselves on vacation, it can have an extremely negative affect on their followers. The same problem was discussed in an article titled Social Media and Its Effect on the Teen Brain. Aside from celebrities posting their glamorous lives on social media platforms, teens friends can have the same, sometimes even worse, effects on them. When a teenagers friends make themselves appear more popular or attractive, it can trigger some depressive feelings in someone following them (Gordon). Similar to celebrities, when people post the positive aspects of their lives online, they do not have any idea that they are triggering any sort of depressive feelings in their followers, so they are not to blame. These posts that people see every day are resulting in eating disorders, and body image concerns. Studies even show that those who had spent more time on social media had 2.2 times the risk of experiencing these issues compared to their peers, who spent less time on social media (Hurley). Unfortunately, this problem is not one that can be easily solved. To ask billions of people to refrain from posting the things that they want to is nearly impossible, and would not be fair. Who really has the right to control everything people post? People should, to some extent, have the right to post whatever they want without constantly worrying about how other people may feel about it or react to it. That being said, if a person constantly finds themselves getting sad or depressed as they scroll through their feed, then it would be a good idea to take a break from social media which of course, is easier said than done. If parents start to notice their child acting slightly more depressed, or trying to change a lot of aspects about themselves, then they should attempt to begin monitoring the content their children are viewing online, and try to control as best that they can.
Do you consider yourself a procrastinator? Procrastination is one of the most common traits in people, especially teenagers. Despite how desperately a task may need to be completed, people often find themselves getting easily distracted trying to complete the assignment, and end up finishing it at the very last minute. One of the biggest contributors to procrastination today is an excessive use of social media and technology. Author Mark D. Griffiths talks about the effects of social media on peoples ability to complete tasks. He believes that peoples habitual tendencies on social media can over into their personal lives, and distract them from the work that they should be focused on (Griffiths). People, teens especially, may be working on a big assignment, and once they feel they have been working hard for a long enough time, they give themselves a quick break. They close their books, grab their food, and relax for a little while, scrolling aimlessly through social media. Before they know it, one hour has passed, and rather than getting back to their work, they continue to scroll some more. The next time they check their clocks, it is two hours later, and they decide to just go to sleep, having gotten barely any work done.
Growing up, one of the biggest factors in ensuring good mental health is getting plenty of sleep. It is commonly said that teens should get at least 8 hours of sleep per night in order to remain healthy and energetic throughout their day to day lives. However, many teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep every night. Of course, there are many factors that may come into play when regarding a teenagers sleep patterns, such as insomnia, which is uncontrollable. Another contributing factor is that many kids are glued to their cellular devices and other portable devices. They are so addicted to these devices that they keep them on their bed at night as they sleep. Believe it or not, keeping the device so close at all times is actually playing a big part in keeping kids up at night, causing them to lose valuable sleep needed for good performance in school, and other daily activities (Gordon). Some teenagers will deliberately lay in bed, scrolling through their phones, even though they know that they should be getting some sleep. Other times, kids leave their phones on their bed, and wake up in the middle of the night to check them. Sometimes it may be a text notification or a vibration that wakes them up, other times it may just be an urge that they feel, an urge strong enough to cause them to jump out of a deep sleep, and check their phone.
Social media use is also leading to an extreme decline in physical health. Due to the addiction of social media, kids are not participating in the recommended amount of physical activity per day. The average amount that people children should be working out or doing some sort of physical activity is about 30 minutes to one hour. Kids today would much rather lay in bed with some food, scrolling through different online platforms on their portable devices than going outside, or doing anything else, for that matter. This can also be tied into the social lives of children who would rather stay locked up in their rooms all day on their phones. An essential part of growing up and making friends for children is going outside and connecting with other members of their community. When children start off with social media use at a young age, they are ruining their chances to build social skills. People can often become anti-social, isolated, and absent-minded in many situations. A psychologist at Psychreg recalls a similar situation with one of their friends. Their friend became addicted to a social media platform, and over time, this platform began to consume her, and she began to become distant from her family, and friends, and the rest of the world around her (How Social Media Addiction Affects Your Health and Well-Being?). These sort of addictive tendencies are dangerous, and can be even more dangerous when they start at a young age. If you develop these tendencies when you are older, they are easy to control, and you should be able to bounce back easier. However, when younger children miss the chance to build critical social skills, they are jeopardizing their chances of learning them as easily as they would as younger children.
Social media is not all bad, though. There are many things about it that are dangerous, but the good things must still be taken into account in regards to it. For one, social media serves as a safe space for many closeted teens. Katie Hurley, an author at Psycom claims Teens in marginalized groups–including LGBTQ teens struggling with mental health issues–can find support and friendship through use of social media (Hurley). Kids who do not necessarily feel comfortable expressing themselves to their parents, peers, or anyone else in their life for whatever reason, are able to seek support from varied sources online. There are online group chats, blogs, and pages for anyone to speak and share their stories without the fear of being judged by anyone. Though many teens have friends that they feel they can confide in, they still seek safe spaces, as some things they do not feel comfortable sharing. Often times social media is able to offer a safe environment for teens, and provide a safe space that might be lacking in their normal friendships (Gordon).