How social media affects teen health
By Asha Davis and Erin Burnett, Mercy High School
Even though we see teenagers on social media looking fine, posting their everyday activities and having fun in what seems like near-perfect lives, looks can be deceiving, and social media can have negative effects on their health.
The hours spent on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites can affect their health in a number of ways: mentally, socially and emotionally — inside and outside of the classroom.
Seventy-five percent of teenagers in America today have profiles on social media programs, according to a report by Common Sense Media.
More research is starting to give us a better understanding of how social media is affecting teenagers.
A survey of 1,500 young people by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom found that young, social girls compared themselves to unrealistic photos of perfect girls that may actually be photo-shopped.
A 2012 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that social media is more of a risk to adolescents than adults realize. Some teenagers may face cyberbullying or develop Facebook depression. Some studies have also found some links between anxiety and sleep-deprivation.
We conducted interviews with students, a life coach and a teacher, who offered their personal opinions and insight into how students are impacted in many ways by social media.
Two students from Mercy High School shared their experiences with social media and how they feel like something is missing when they are not on it.
“If I don’t have social media, I don’t know what’s going on, and I need to know what’s going on,” said Kristina Dyson, a junior at Mercy High School. She uses social media to communicate with friends and to see what her friends are doing right at that moment.
“I use social media to talk to friends, see what everybody is doing [and to see what celebrities are doing],” said Nijah Fleet, a sophomore at Mercy High School. She also said that, like Kristina, when she is not on social media she feels that she is missing something.
Both teenagers mostly use Snapchat and Twitter.
Leslie Parker, a life coach, said that social media takes away from family time and real-life verbal communication.
“Kids should connect with people, not so much the machines, not so much Twitter,” she said. “ … They have made social media their family, and I think down the road, it will just make them become more distant in terms of talking to someone.”
But she said there are some positive aspects to social media, including staying connected to people. It all depends on how they use social media, she said.
“I think it is good to be able to reach out, because you will be able to at least connect to people, that you are not able to connect to, in your own home and your own household.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics report also said that some aspects of social media can be good for adolescents. They can access health information, develop social connections and use it to do their school work. For instance, they can connect with one another on homework assignments.
Joy Medley, an Anne Arundel County High School Chemistry teacher at North County High School, said that she believes social media can be a distraction from class. Constant notifications can pull the student’s attention to the device rather than the lessons.
Teenagers can play a role in how social media affects them. Their parents can also help them develop healthy social media behaviors, the American Academy of Pediatrics report said. If kids continue to overuse social media, it can have those negative effects on sleep, overall health, mental health and schoolwork. If kids use social media properly and use it responsibly, social media platforms can be a great way to connect with friends and make new ones. Teenagers can also use it to stay informed about the daily news and what is going on with friends and the world.
Plus, it’s just fun.