Teens oblivious to effects of social media

By Saeri Plagmann, Clarion Staff

In our ever-evolving society things are always changing, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Social media is by far the most influential and consequential forms of evolution that continues to expand.

According to the Child Mind Institute, CNN, The Telegraph, and the American Psychological Association, social media harms the brain in more ways than we can think. However, the main problem lies within the fact that as teenagers (the most frequent users of social media), we fail to understand how being on our phones over a long period of time can subject us to harm. This makes it all the more necessary to inform students on what we are being exposed to, both socially and psychologically.

As a result of today’s society being dominated by all forms of social networking, many find it difficult to refrain from using them for less than a few hours. A recent student body survey at Kennedy provides evidence by showing that 62 % of 138 students first started using social media from the age of 11 to 13. Furthermore, 51% spend an average of one to five hours daily on social media, and 18% spend around six to ten hours. Kennedy junior Jenny Vang says, “I personally spend about two to three hours on social media in one day, but for teens to be on it for over five hours is a little too much. They can always find something more productive to do.”

With the amount of time majority of students are spending online, it is no wonder our generation is the face of concern for parents, doctors, and teachers. Even during class time or while doing homework, most teenagers would be caught face deep in photos, videos, trending news, and messages. Mr. Gleason, English teacher at Kennedy, has observed the rising trend in the use of phones among teens on campus since the fall of 2004, when he first came to the school. He claims the use of phones in class today are similar to what students did before the generation of technological devices: “It’s like what passing notes in class would be, but more tempting.”

Gleason was asked to consider why teens continually resort back to their phones when they get bored. To this, he replied that it was the result of ‘FOMO’, or Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO is common among all ages, and is used to describe people who constantly need to know about the things going on around them, or even around their friends. According to Time News, it is a mental state of mind that makes you fear being left “out of the loop”, which causes you to “keep running the digital hamster wheel” that never seems to stop.

Although technology only continues to advance further in the future, Gleason reasons with the way it is used among society today. “People young and old can have difficulty sitting in their own head space without some outside stimuli like social media. I believe boredom is just a struggle of one’s imagination to appreciate the moment.”

Many find it ironic that despite being told about the negative effects of being on phones for too long, teenagers still continue to use it over long periods of time on a daily basis. The student survey shows that about 37% of students feel social media to have a bad effect on teens, while 26% feel it to have no effect at all. This leaves 21% for a good effect and 15% for a combination of both. Although the results show majority of students to understand how social media affects them negatively, it begs the question of why the cautions are being disregarded. Kennedy sophomore Thai Saechao sheds some light on the topic. “I consider social media to be bad because it causes people to be less social.” When asked why teenagers continue to use it despite the cautions, he says, “We do it as a form of teenage rebellion; it makes people feel cooler.”

Research proves that mood disorders, depression, lowering of self-esteem, addiction, and the inability to communicate directly are only some of the effects an individual can experience.

Social media addiction, which 82% of Kennedy students justified was possible, is a factor that can be the most impacting toward the youth of today because so many teens are oblivious to how common it is. Although it can happen to anyone, girls are more likely to be prone to it because they spend more time on visually dominant forms of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Visual media makes it more likely for girls to compare themselves more, leading to insecurity and low self-esteem. Boys on the other hand are said to spend more time playing video games, which although does not have the same effect that social media has, it does contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle if on it for too long.

The evolution of social media and technology can only go deeper into advancement. As we enter into an age that fully depends on media and networking, it is important that we understand the risks we are exposed to and when we need to limit ourselves. The first form of social media came out 20 years ago, called sixdegrees.com. It acted as the foundation for all current communicative platforms. A study conducted by Pew Research Center shows that back in 2005 only 12% of young adults from the ages 18 to 29 ever used social media, but now it is as high as 90%.

20 years of constant technological developments and improvements can drastically change the society. To think of what we will be capable of doing 20 years from now creates excitement, but also worry. It could be that the social and psychological issues will remain unresolved, and our society will be left in worse condition than it is now. However, there is also a chance that we will be able to have more self-control over what we do. Either way, it is good to be prepared and to know when enough is enough.



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