These days, anyone with a mobile phone can access almost anything on the internet. Particularly social media, which has fast become an effective tool for business and advertising. Everywhere we go, social media follows.
For the current generations who have been born into this era, social media is all they know. It’s easy to find scores of articles purely based on social media exchanges. This highlights how much social media determines the conversation of today.
According to an article published in the American Academy of Pediatrics social media has many benefits such as: allowing young people to stay connected, promoting community engagement like charity work and volunteering. Social media can inspire young people with creative mindsets e.g. poets, writers and artists. Resources like blogs and podcasts allow young people more opportunities to express their ideas.
Additionally, social media provides exposure to different cultures and diverse backgrounds and can be beneficial in allowing young people to develop their own unique identities.
Unfortunately, while social media has many upsides, there are negative aspects. Social media can influence depression, peer pressure and other conditions. Young people in particular are susceptible to this.
The vast majority of the users on social media are between the ages of 16-24. Statistics from a time period of 2009-2018 show that 70% of 12-15 year olds have some form of social media profile. When we consider that at least 26% of the world population are under 15 years of age, it’s easy to see how much reach social media has.
How Social Media Affects Young People
Social media has almost single-handedly cultivated the phenomenon known as ‘FOMO’, which is an acronym for fear of missing out. This is when users click onto social media and feel like they’re missing out on exciting and interesting things that are being posted by other people. This is most likely to be felt by young people who have less freedom to do what they want because they’re still under adult supervision.
Anxiety, stress, peer pressure, depression are also downsides of social media. More negative effects of social media include bullying, hurtful rumours, an unrealistic world view and distraction from things such as school work and family obligation. It’s also possible for young people to become addicted to social media which in turn affects their mental health.
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics the risks of social media are more prevalent than adults realise. These risks include cyberbullying and harassment, sexting and Facebook depression.
Facebook depression occurs when young people spend a lengthy amount of time on Facebook (or other social media platforms) and begin to exhibit signs of depression. This is caused by a need to be accepted by their friends and can leave sufferers feeling even more isolated. This is harmful because if they’re not being monitored, young people who feel this way may end up on risky sites that promote drugs, unsafe sexual practices and self destructive behaviour.
How to stop social media from having a negative impact
The best way to prevent social media from impacting young people in a bad way is to promote educational value of social media. There are many positive influences to be taken from social media that are overlooked due to the downsides.
Young people should be taught a realistic world view both in school and by their parents and we should encourage them to make thoughtful and insightful contributions online.
There should also be an emphasis on logical thinking. Young people should be able to discern between what’s real and what’s not. Examples of disingenuous social media postings include and are not limited to: false advertisement, fad diets, fake job postings and heavily edited images. Adolescents should be equipped with the necessary research skills and advice that will help prevent them from falling into the dark side of social media.
Other ways to improve this issue is to provide adults and teachers education and advice on how to facilitate conversation on issues that the youth face today. This should be extended to ensure that adults know how to effectively monitor the activity of young people on social media in order to minimise the risks and increase the benefits.
Last updated: 30/05/2020
Originally titled ‘the dark side of social media’.
Average age of social media users – https://www.statista.com/statistics/274829/age-distribution-of-active-social-media-users-worldwide-by-platform/
The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families – https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/800.full