Whether teenagers be on social media is a question as old as social media itself. Numerous studies have discussed the negatives and positive aspects of this debate enough times to fill the Library of Congress tenfold.
This question came into the spotlight once again thanks to the mighty revelations spilled by Frances Haugen about Facebook’s internal workings. According to a Facebook study, 13.5 percent of young girls in the United Kingdom stated their suicide ideation rose after they started using Instagram, according to Haugen.
According to another leaked poll, 17 percent of young girls say Instagram has made their eating problems worse.
According to Facebook’s research, which was first reported by the Journal, around 32% of young girls said that Instagram made them feel even worse about their bodies when they felt bad about themselves.
Haugen’s discoveries revealed that Facebook was unconcerned about its users and frequently prioritized revenues over privacy.
The pandemic of fake news
Fake news has become a pandemic, and its source of origin is mostly social media, especially Facebook. It is a petri dish of false claims and unproven rhetorics. Fake news is spreading like wildfire on the medium, and there is no stopping it.
Since 2016, social media has become the least trusted news source in the world. According to a poll conducted in spring 2020, 60 percent of the UK’s 16- to 24-year-old population had recently accessed social media for coronavirus knowledge, and 59 percent had come across bogus news on the topic. “On the internet, 52 percent of Americans think they encounter bogus news daily.”
Haugen admits she had taken a deeply vested interest in Facebook to change its image. She wanted to manage the social media site’s integrity rather than its growth. One of Haugen’s friends had been brainwashed by all the false propaganda present on Facebook and got converted into a hardcore Trump supporter.
It goes on to show how prevalent fake news is on social media and how it can radicalize the youth.
Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are two phenomena that are also quite common on social media just like fake news. Cyberstalking is defined as the use of the Internet and other technologies to harass or stalk another person online, and it is possibly illegal.
This type of online harassment, which is a combination of cyberbullying and in-person stalking is abundant on social media and other forms of communication. It is frequently systematic, purposeful, and persistent.
Even if the recipient communicates their disgust or begs the offender to stop, most conversations do not terminate. The information intended towards the target is frequently unsuitable and, in some cases, upsetting, leaving the individual afraid, distressed, apprehensive, and worried.
It is something that every parent is afraid of, yet very few adolescents discuss such topics. Parents need a proactive approach to deal with this problem, which I’ll be discussing later on.
Social media, mental health, and self-esteem
Teens do not view social media as a separate entity, rather an extension of themselves. Due to prolonged publicity of Photoshopped stimuli, teens start assimilating towards them and start hating their bodies.
They start having high expectations from their definition of beauty. And this behavior causes them to have an increased tendency of comparing themselves to others.
According to research from the Education Policy Institute and The Prince’s Trust, all children in elementary school have equal levels of happiness and self-esteem.
It was discovered that both boys’ and girls’ mental health suffers at the age of 14, but females’ mental health suffers more after that of boys.
By the age of 14, one out of every three females was dissatisfied with her looks, compared to one out of every seven after elementary school. One out of every six young people now has a possible mental disease, up from one out of every nine in 2017.
At the age of 14, boys in the bottom group of elementary school exhibited lower self-esteem than their classmates. According to the survey, both genders’ well-being declined during adolescence, with females reporting a bigger fall. Girls felt more depressed and hopeless; however, heavy social media use negatively affected mental health regardless of an individual’s mental state. So this finding is in line with Facebook’s internal study, which was leaked by Haugen.
Another study found that kids in middle and high school who used social media at high levels were linked with increased depression, over four years.
Why there is still hope?
Teenagers should not be dissuaded by the dark side of social media. There is undoubtedly a lot of issues that need to be addressed when it comes to social media. But there is hope yet. Teens can take responsibility when it comes to the prominence of fake news on social media.
No one should ever take anything written or said on social media at face value. They should not fall for the age-old trick of clickbait headlines. Everyone should do their research and look for credible sources whenever they read something online.
As far as cyberbullying and online stalking is concerned, there is a simple yet effective solution for this conundrum. No, I’m not talking about deleting one’s social media profile and becoming a monk living in the mountains. Neither am I talking about parents taking away their kids’ mobile phones altogether. It is much more subtle than that. I’m referring to parents adopting a hands-on approach.
Parents Need Help in Intervening
Parents may discuss safe and dangerous internet activities as well as acceptable and improper behavior with their teenagers. Parents can also respond to inquiries from teenagers by answering them and offering guidance.
They can also take real actions to monitor or check up on their teenagers’ online activity, such as monitoring which websites a teen has visited, seeing their social media accounts, or adding them as friends.
This is easier said than done as no teenager would willfully give up their phones and risk having to explain their actions. Innovative tech solutions, like remote monitoring apps, can help parents overcome this hurdle.
Remote monitoring apps can restrict websites, help set time limits, and remotely monitor teens’ online activities and interactions.
These apps can keep an eye on your child’s internet accounts and don’t let them know that parents are monitoring them.
Some youngsters or teenagers may construct a fictitious second account for their parents to see. Since remote monitoring apps can track all social media activity, they can overcome this issue as well. Parents will be able to view their kids’ activity and see when their child has made a fake account.
It is a remarkable solution for parents who don’t have much free time on their hands or do not want confrontation with their kids.
Parents can intervene using these apps to minimize the time teens spend on social media and try to offer positive affirmations, thus taking care of the mental health issue associated with excess social media use as well.