Some of the Ways Social Media Impacts the Youths

Social media use has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half. It was known that only five percent of adults in the United States were using a social media platforms in 2005, Presently, that number has been reported to scaled above 65 percent.

Growth in the number of people who use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat and other social media platforms — and the time spent on them—has garnered interest and concern among policymakers, teachers, parents, and clinicians about social media’s impacts on our lives and psychological well-being.

One particularly pernicious concern is whether time spent on social media sites is eating away at face-to-face time, a phenomenon known as social displacement .

Fears about social displacement are longstanding, as old as the telephone and probably older. “This issue of displacement has gone on for more than 100 years,” says Jeffrey Hall, PhD, director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas. “No matter what the technology is,” says Hall, there is always a “cultural belief that it’s replacing face-to-face time with our close friends and family.”

When it comes to teens, a recent study by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, with his colleagues found that, as a cohort, high school seniors heading to college in 2016 spent an “ hour less a day engaging in in-person social interaction” — such as going to clubs, movies, or riding in cars together — compared with high school seniors in the 1980s. As a group, this decline was associated with increased digital media use. However, at the individual level, more social media use was positively associated with more in-person social interaction. The study also found that adolescents who spent the most time on social media and the least time in face-to-face social interactions reported the most loneliness.

Social media benefits teens by expanding their social networks and keeping them in touch with their peers and far-away friends and family. But there are also risks. The Common-Sense Media survey found that 13 percent of teens reported being cyberbullied at least once.

Social media can also be channels for accessing inappropriate content like violent images or pornography. About two-thirds of teens who use social media said they “’often’ or ‘sometimes’ come across racist, sexist, homophobic, or religious-based hate content in social media.”

Looking at the adolescent developmental literature, the core issues facing youth are sexuality, identity, and intimacy,” a recent study has shown.

Today’s teens — being tech natives — may get less hung up on the online/offline dichotomy. “We tend to think about online and offline as disconnected, but we have to recognize that for youth . . . there seems to be so much more fluidity and connectedness between the real and the physical and the offline and the online,”

Conclusively, growing up with digital technology may be changing teen brain development in ways we don’t yet know — and these changes may, in turn, change how teens relate to technology. Because the exposure to technology is happening so early, it’s only wise to be mindful of the possibility that perhaps there are changes happening at a neural level with early exposure. How youths interact with technology could just be qualitatively different from how we do it.

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