Alexis Nguyen / Edge Columnist
Social media has become a big part of teenagers’ lives. Around 72% of Canadian teens use social media sites, including Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook.
Social media sites are apps that people can use to share content, as well as network and communicate with others. During the pandemic, it has been a good tool to stay connected with others.
Although there are many perks to using social media, there are also many downsides that sometimes outweigh the positives.
The amount of time spent on social media also contributes to cell phone addiction since most of the time social media sites are on a mobile device. This causes everyone to always carry cell phone everywhere they go, even when they aren’t necessary, so much that it becomes a habit to take out cell phones when there isn’t anything else to do.
Cell phone addiction is rising in teenagers, as younger generations are more dependent on cell phones compared to older generations.
Constant urges to have to look at cell phones and social media sites lead to teens losing sleep and looking at their devices late at night instead. Sleep is a necessity for teenagers because it provides the rest teens need to function during the day.
Looking at social media continuously will also cause decreased interaction with other people face-to-face. When spending time with family and friends, having a phone out and being use should be unnecessary since there are people there to talk to. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with teenagers, as some prefer texting over talking to others.
With less interest to interact with others, there are fewer chances to practice socializing. Having good social skills are an asset not only for connecting with others, but also in the future for networking and job interviews.
Another part of social skills is having good communication skills. Most teens are able to communicate well online but communicating face-to-face with others might be more awkward if they haven’t been exposed to as many social situations.
Extended social media use can also lead to many mental health concerns, such as loneliness, body image issues and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a growing problem for teenagers as it is now easier to say something online compared to saying the same thing in person. These messages can be cruel and may have a lasting effect on teens who receive the messages.
Unfortunately, social media can also bring down a person’s self-esteem. In addition to bullying, social media posts are enough to make someone feel like they could be better. This also causes teenagers to make social comparisons based solely on what they see online.
Negative effects on self-esteem and self-confidence and the added issue of cyberbullying causes some teens to view themselves differently and can lead to body image issues. Using social media can make teens point out their own insecurities more often. Pointing out these insecurities makes teens feel more self-conscious and insecure about themselves.
”Though many teens know that their peers share only their best pictures and moments on social media, it’s very difficult to avoid making comparisons. The ongoing exposure to unrealistic beauty standards through social networking sites can affect how teenagers perceive their own bodies,” from the article Social Media Addiction.
Peer pressure is more common now with the increased social media use. Some teens may feel the need to fit in more often than stand out in fear of getting judged or made fun of. This online peer pressure can happen more easily, since teenagers would be exposed to more people on the internet and seem like they have to meet a certain standard.
With social media use still skyrocketing, these sites can make teenagers feel more lonely or isolated, no matter how many followers or friends they have on the apps.
Loneliness occurs when teens feel left out of plans or feel ignored by their friends. Since most teenagers have their own devices, most of the time they will be waiting for a response, that might not even appear.
Social isolation usually happens when people are getting bullying or have rumours spread about them and can make them feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves.
Ultimately, too many of these negative effects will lead to mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. A study found that the more invested teens are with social media, the worse their mental health is.
The connection between negative mental health and social media is obvious and can lead to consequences.
Of course, social media isn’t all bad. There are some positives to social media, including being able to easily message peers, entertainment, sharing posts and having the freedom of self-expression.
Another positive is to be able to form meaningful connections with others online. This allows those who are a little bit more shy to have an opportunity to comfortably make friends.
However, in a few cases the safety of online friends is questioned. Most of the time, it is a great chance to connect with others, but sometimes teens have to deal with someone pretending to be a person they aren’t on the other side of the screen.
Social media is also a good way to learn about current events going on in the world. News can spread very quickly, with the help of social media, it tends to spread even faster.
Using that to their advantage, sometimes people will spread false information around for younger teens to read. With all the misinformation and lack of research being done, teens might believe this and spread the incorrect facts to their peers.
With all the pros and cons of social media use, what seems to be possible solution to lessen negative effects? One of the more obvious solutions is to limit time spent on social media. Being less invested in the online world will help lower the negative effects caused by social media use.
Another solution is to be aware of what is being posted social media sites, and to be cautious of oversharing. This way social media can be a safer place and reduce negative long term effects.
Social media is a place where teenagers spend what seems like endless amounts of time. Even though there are many positives to social media, the negatives have shown that social media can be harmful to teenagers of today’s generation.