Effects of Social media overuse on Teenagers
Tremendous changes in technology characterize the modern epoch. The tech world has shrunk distances making it easy for people to interact freely without physically traveling. Being connected to internet and smartphones is part of growing up among the adolescents. Diverse opinions can also be shared over social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, thus expressing the freedom of speech. Social media, in general, has gained popularity over the years, dragging millions of people ranging from adults to teens. Despite the numerous benefits which accrue from social media use, the way we approach and use these sites have proved to have adverse effects more specifically to teens. Parents are always on the war with their children over the use of social media platforms. However, the blame cannot be shifted entirely to them but rather due to technology diffusion and generation gap. While numerous benefits trickle from the use of Social Media by children and adolescents, overuse of this social platforms have proved to have a significant effect on their mental, physical, and social wellbeing.
Failure to use Social media exacerbates the fear of missing out (FOMO). While the fear has been around for long, even before the existence of social media platforms, there is a general perception that other people are living better lives and having more fun due to full access to information. The perception fuels the need to always search for up-to-date information, which can only be achieved by login into Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (Jood, 2017). The FOMO compels one to use his phone as many times as possible, even if it embroils risky situations such as driving. With such fear, the phone ought to be charged and have access to a broadband every time. There is also the possibility of missing social relationships over a login on a social platform, read a post, or like it.
Teens that are always glued to their smartphones and laptops are prone to depression and anxiety. There is mounting evidence of a positive correlation between social media and depression. According to Falzone et al. (2017), teens and young adults that spend a substantial amount of their time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, among other social media platforms show a higher rate of depression (13 to 66%) compared to their counterparts. The correspondence in the research has been supported by the coincidental increase in smartphone use in 2007 (Hagler, 2017). The rise in depression can be traced year by year with the increase in the number of smartphone use by teens. The relationship between the two is that intuitively brought about by a lack of physical connections. Human beings need face to face interaction to feel relieved at times. An eye-to-eye contact with someone who cares boosts moods and lowers stress. Therefore, prioritizing the use of social media over physical interaction increases the risk of loneliness, which exacerbates anxiety and depression.
Moreover, cyber bullying has been a consequence of the overuse of social media among teens and adolescents. Cyber bullying refers to the spread of bogus information. Facebook, for instance, allows users to open as many accounts as possible. Because of the broad internet connectivity, a ton of data is available online and accessible to multiple users. The information may be maliciously used to gain money, distort one’s image, or spread false ideas as far as the user has access to information about a specific target. Most girls are victims of cyber bullying on these social networking sites. According to Chassiakos & Stager (2020), the victims of cyber bullying suffer from psychological problems like melancholy, stress, anxiety, and low esteem. In the worst-case scenario, some commit suicide. The need to revenge among the teens may be one reason behind the blackmail on these platforms. Accounts used by a cyber-bully, in many instances, are pseudo accounts, which make it difficult to uncover the personality of the people in question.
Besides, social media life has a worrying impact on individual sleeping patterns. The fact that teens and tweens are spending an impressive amount of time on smartphones and computer screens is gaining unprecedented attention among the researchers. According to Browne et al. (2018), a third of UK children have access to a tablet before they reach the age of four while in the US, 70% of the teen is using the social media use Snapchat and Instagram. The way an individual spends their time during the day is fundamental to their health. In many instances, people tend to browse on the internet in their last 30 minutes to bed only to find that they have overdone it (Soni et al., 2017). Besides, tech use, depression, and lack of sleep form a vicious circle. Depression has a positive relationship with media use. Such a mental condition may be triggered by adverse thoughts and feelings, which consequently deprives sleep. In addition to depression, there are other side effects for lack of sleep, which include but not limited to anxiety, heart diseases, obesity, reduced stimuli, and increased substance abuse among teens (Soni et al., 2017).
Additionally, consistent use of social media for very long hours can result in Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children and teens. ADHD alludes to a chronic condition, which includes a combination of the continuous problem of sustaining attention, hyperactivity as well as impulsive behavior (Ra et al., 2018). The ADHD problem is carried in a million children, and it is likely to continue into adulthood. Ra and colleagues (2018) carried out a cross-sectional experiment to determine the frequency of digital media usage among teens aged between 15 and 16 years old. There was a follow-up for a period not exceeding two years. The cohort study discovered that there is a significant but modal association between the high frequency of digital media use and the associated symptoms of ADHD. Nevertheless, much research needs to be carried out to determine the causal relationship between ADHD and digital media usage. During the mid-adolescence stage, the teen has an inherent ability to develop a social identity as well as cultivate a relationship environment among peers. The digital media platforms are there to bridge the gap and catalyze the process by providing a site for instantaneous communication (Ra et al., 2018). It is at this stage also when the neuroplasticity and brain development to shape one’s behavior. Therefore, when exposed to ADHD at this stage, the problem is likely to be present even past the adolescent stage.
While there are numerous adverse effects of social media use by teens, from the other side of the coin, the sites also have benefits to the very teenagers. Digital platforms serve as the ground for sharing information. The youths can share ideas on the platform and enhance their creativity (Anderson & Jiang, 2018). The Fear of missing out cannot be overlooked as a negative effect on teens. The aggression of the youth to know how their peers are doing drives their quest to browse, and in the process, they acquire new information that keeps them up-to-date. Also, being socially connected is essential for psychological development. People need to form social connections in any way possible to relieve stress or anxiety. Most introverts’ individuals find it comfortable to seek social engagement online rather than by physical interaction. They feel less isolated when interacting online. Therefore, the society should let the children feel the benefits of growing up in digital age.
Despite having some benefits of social media use among teens, the adverse effects outweigh the positive impacts. Society needs innovative and happy teens in the future. Nevertheless, the negative implication of digital sites contradicts the positive elements of social media sites. It is, therefore, necessary to adjust to measures that will ensure checks and balances on the time and use of the digital platforms.
The discussion above proves that digital media overuse is a problem itself in addition to posing many risks such as mental, physical, and social among teens and tweens. Like every problem, there are solutions to psychological and physical issues brought about by social media misuse and overuse. Some of these include but not limited to parental control and Family Therapy, Psychotherapy as well as an initiative role by the private sectors.
Parents are charged with the role of bringing their children in a socially acceptable manner. They are obliged to control the screen time whenever they are home with their children. The teens can barely do anything in their homes with their mind on the screen. Also, carrying family therapies would be significant to help understand the teen and what they are going through. The family therapy should serve as a media for identifying the way they should help teens and any other member of the family who is addicted to social media use (Walters, 2017). Changes can also be implemented to encourage healthier use of online platforms and aid teens to deal with their problems.
Moreover, a one-on-one meeting with a psychotherapist can be organized. Talk therapies are essential in helping the teens understand the harm that social media has caused to them and their peers (Lee et al., 2016). Even though there are different concepts and understanding of the use of social media platforms, it is evident that it impairs the mental health of a teen when used in excess. By making them aware of the damage inflicted on them, they may find a way to offset the use of these platforms there than spend their substantial amount of time on Facebook, Snap chat, Twitter, or Instagram.
Private sectors, such as the tech companies, also have a role to play. As the benefactors and drivers of the digital media revolution, they should create an environment that is user friendly. They should also make a clear distinction on the age difference to help parents manage the access of digital platforms by their children. Although this contradicts their money-making incentives, it is worth investing in a tech-friendly environment for the future of the teens. It sounds more ethical to help the teens deal with digital social phenomena by designing websites with meaningful conversation and minimal liking and browsing.
The overuse of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat, and Instagram has posed a lot of risk to teens and tweens. These risks range from mental to physical and include depression, fear of missing out, lack of sleep, cyber buying, and even lack of social connections. Parents are obliged to keep their children on check for the time they spend on the screen as well as offer family therapy where necessary. Psychotherapy may also be a solution to the overuse of digital platforms. The teens are enlightened to see how the digital platforms have affected their lives as well as those of their peers. The tech companies are also advised to come up with better ways of digital interaction bearing meaningful content and fewer likes. The battle to the use of social media is unceasing, and therefore, it should be an individual initiative.
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