Addressing the effects of social media use on adolescents
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Communication is humans’ most basic desire and as technology advances, mobile phones and social media provide this by allowing people to connect and by giving a sense of belonging. As of January 2017, approximately 37% of the world’s population was a part of at least one social network, with North America having the highest rate of 66% of the population having at least one social media account. As of 2016, Canadian internet users spend on average 107 minutes per day accessing social media accounts through their devices (The Statistics Portal, 2017). At 1.65 billion users worldwide as of 2016, Facebook is the most frequently used platform and especially popular among adolescents and young adults (Statista, 2016). While this has led to benefits in certain areas such as marketing through the use of social networks, these increases in use have also resulted in negative effects. “Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems” (Manson, 2016). Born in the early 1990’s, I am a millennial woman. Part of this identity is having had a childhood consisting of summers spent playing outside, having to wait for the landline to be free to speak with friends outside of school, and anytime spent at a computer being a great privilege and treat. In my adolescent years, I received my first mobile phone which I was to share with my younger brother, and only to be used for emergencies. We also got our first home computer which was shared by the whole family. In high school, I was able to get a better mobile phone which allowed for calling and texting with friends and I received my first personal laptop. Now at 28 years old, my mobile phone is with me nearly at all times and I am a part of four social media platforms. I used to use them all daily to communicate with friends and family, post pictures, and learn about things I am interested in such as music, fashion, travel, filming, and actors. More recently, I found myself feeling the need to take breaks from use and I have not been very active on my online profiles. Recognizing the negative effect it has had on me, I am concerned for young individuals of today. I can appreciate the importance of awareness and guidance as exposure to technology is occurring at increasingly younger ages. With unlimited benefits and possibilities of social media, and yet great risks of harm, it has become essential to ensure unhealthy habits of use are prevented. Parents, teachers, and counsellors must take responsibility in ensuring they set good examples, create environments and relationships that are safe and nonjudgmental, and to recognize the risks and needs of our young people. I take part in this responsibility of addressing and helping to prevent the negative effects of social media on adolescents. Initial social media use age is dropping and as of 2013, first time Facebook users were on average between the ages of 12 and 13 (Garcia-Jimenez, Lopez-de-Ayala-Lopez, & Catalina Garcia, 2013). Social media sites are especially attractive to adolescents, those between 10 years and 19 years, a time of cognitive, psychological, and biological development making them most vulnerable to negative effects such as the fear of missing out (FOMO) (Oberst, Wegmann, Stodt, Brand, & Chamarro, 2017). Between 2014 and 2015, it was found that 71% of adolescents reported that they use more than one form of social media and that 94% of adolescents who use these sites, do so daily from their mobile devices (The Office of Adolescent Health, 2016). According to a 2019 study, on average, teenagers are spending six to seven hours daily in front of a digital screen (McKenna, 2019). This group of social media users has young developing minds and are the most easily influenced. In general, technology and the use of social media have its potential risks and benefits to adolescent users and ultimately, it is based on how one uses them. It can be a source of communicating with peers, exploring learning opportunities, and discovering of extra-curricular activities that benefit mental and physical health. It must also be considered, however, that being frequent users of social media, youth are at risk of all its negative effects when it is not used with awareness (The Office of Adolescent Health, 2016).