Social Media started out in the late 90s, with different platforms like sixdegrees and Hi5 pioneering the use of web 2.0 which changed the way information was being shared – making it a dialogic exchange instead of a monologic one.
But after Facebook changed the face of social media, making it a global phenomenon – new platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok have shown up. While Facebook was initially meant for college students only, younger users found creative ways to join Facebook. Nowadays, teens are able to use multiple social media platforms, even managing to get Instagram followers in large numbers. This all begs the question: should teens be allowed on social media?
Socializing Over The Internet
Older generations usually claim that “kids these days prefer the digital world” and don’t socialize as much. The truth is, teenagers these days are not given as much freedom as the teens of the 70s and 80s. Some find that the only way they can socialize without adult supervision is through the internet – on social media in particular.
Teens Nowadays Have More Access To Information
One noticeable impact of allowing teens on the internet, and social media in particular – is that teens are now exposed to more mature content. In the past, teens only had access to information from their peers and any older family members/friends. Because social media is global and teens have access to accounts from people of all ages – they also have access to a lot more mature content. This has resulted in teens that are hypersexualizing themselves unknowingly, and also makes it easier for paedophiles and others with malicious intent to interact with teens.
What About Teens Using Social Media As A Business?
Some more creative and responsible teens have been using social media platforms, particularly Instagram and TikTok, as a source of income. They are either using the platforms to market their online businesses, or they are directly earning money through the platforms as content creators. Of course, as they get more followers and views, they are able to negotiate better sponsorship deals. Some of these sponsorship contracts amount to thousands of dollars a year.
Cyberbullying – A Psychological Strain On Teens
Bullying is no longer something that is limited to the hallways at school. People online have more courage to bully others because they are hiding behind the relative anonymity that the internet provides. This means that people who participate in cyberbullying are often more harsh and heartless with their comments. Teens have yet to develop and mature fully, and are likely to have trouble coping with the psychological impact of cyberbullying.
For example, if a teen posts a “selfie” on instagram – they probably spent some time picking through dozens of photos to bring out the one that they believe portrays them in good light. They may have even used a number of filters and edits to hide any features they are insecure about. If such a photo were to receive a negative comment, the teen that posted it may feel that their insecurities are actual faults. Their self esteem and confidence will take a toll, no matter how many times a grown up informs them that the comments were probably just someone who is trolling them, without considering their feelings.
It’s difficult to say whether teens should be on social media. The pros and cons are many, and each situation is different. The best practice is for parents to have some form of active role in monitoring their teen’s social media use. However, the teens must still have the freedom to explore the world without complete parental supervision. The balancing act that parents must play is certainly a difficult task to accomplish.