Teens and social media

A majority of teens in America use social media almost every day, if not multiple times a day. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 have used social media, and 75% have at least one active social media account. 

The website also stated that teens spend an average of almost nine hours online each day; out of the students I spoke with, the amount of time they spent on social media alone ranged from one to ten hours per day. It’s also no secret that the use of social media affects teens in some way, usually their self-esteem. However, it’s quite difficult to stop using social media, especially right now, since many teens use social media as a way to communicate with their friends or use it as their main source of information about what is happening in the world. 

Having spoken with multiple students, I was fascinated by the answers I received to some of my questions about social media. Janie Colver (‘20) said that Instagram was the social media outlet that has affected her the most. “I just get so lost on Instagram. I just keep scrolling and there’s so much content and so many opinions just jumping at you all at the same time,” she said. Mark Laguna (‘21) described Instagram as “making you feel like you’re in a social competition; like a ladder […] and you’re trying to get to the top.”

Snapchat, which has become a popular app among teens as a way to meet new people, is seen as “pointless” by Colver. However, Lucy Odegaard (‘23) says it’s the app that she uses the most and has affected her the most. “It’s affected me in a good way because I’ve made a lot of friends on there, and I can communicate with them and snap pictures back and forth,” Odegaard stated. Laguna and Odegaard also share the opinion that this generation of social media users is more toxic and shameful of different body types, whereas, Anna Gilchrist (‘21) thinks the opposite: “I feel like [putting people down] has become less of a problem. I feel more recently, people are good at not [going too far]. I think people are really accepting of all bodies and I think that’s really cool to see.” 

Many of the students I interviewed were seniors and started using social media around the age of thirteen, but Bothell’s younger students may have had social media at a much younger age. Statista.com has a chart of the number of Instagram and Snapchat users by age in the U.S. alone in 2017. It was recorded that 14.5 million children under the age of twelve had Instagram and 23.5 million had Snapchat, which were higher numbers than teen users present on those platforms. Odegaard informed me that she got Snapchat when she was twelve and Instagram when she was thirteen, but TikTok, which was previously known as Music.ly, was an app she had at the young age of eleven. 

Personally, I know that kids of much younger ages are currently present on these platforms; my nieces, ages ten and seven, and my nephew, age nine, are all on TikTok and Instagram and have hundreds of posts on their accounts.

Social media in itself can be really scary, and many teenagers know that there are algorithms and companies that track what things users are interested in to better advertise, yet so many of us still use social media every day. It’s all like an addiction. Do you think you could stop using social media for more than a couple of hours? I sure don’t.

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