Teens need more tools for smart social media use
"I spent seven hours on TikTok."
To most parents, this statement probably sounds close to gibberish. The world of social media moves at a rapid pace — new platforms constantly crop up, older ones swiftly go out of fashion, and social media trends come and go each day.
Today's teenagers have access to a plethora of social media platforms, including (but certainly not limited to) Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and the most recent viral phenomenon, TikTok.
Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, how our lawmakers communicate with us, and how the media operates as a whole. Most notably, the youngest generation is growing up in uncharted territory. When problems arise relating to teenagers' prolific use of social media, there are no solutions readily available.
A 2018 study conducted by Common Sense reported that 90% of American teens have smartphones, and a whopping 70% use social media multiple times a day.
For the most part, social media is for entertainment purposes, but is by no means entirely harmless. Over half of the teens who participated in the study reported that social media was a distraction that prevented them from doing homework or interacting with others.
Some statistics from the study indicated a fair amount of positivity — 25% of teens said social media made them feel less lonely — but others are more sobering. Over half of teens report seeing racist or homophobic content on a relatively regular basis on these platforms.
It's no secret that the majority of teenagers are almost constantly online, but that's inevitable in this new digital age. Arguably more concerning than the distraction social media poses is how many teens turn to these platforms to vent their problems and worries.
For vulnerable teenagers, posting about their troubles on social media is akin to shouting into the void. It is not a truly viable way of seeking help, but provides the temporary comfort and attention that teenagers crave.
That isn't to say social media is always detrimental — communication online can be just as meaningful as conversations that take place face-to-face. The real issue lies in the fact that, on social media, it's much easier to scroll past another person's problems without
actually seeking out ways to help them.
It's impossible to keep teenagers off of their phones, but there are ways to encourage more meaningful communication using this new technology.
It's easy to get lost in the seemingly perfect lives of other people, or to turn to these platforms to vent rather than being open with friends and family.
For this reason, it's important for parents to understand the extent of the influence that social media has on the lives of teenagers. Parents don't have to use TikTok (teenagers would honestly probably prefer that they didn't), but they should at least have an awareness of the things that occupy a significant portion of their children's time.
Social media plays a massive part in many people's lives, especially the younger generation. It's important to remind ourselves and each other that genuine communication is not only possible, but necessary.
Sydney Byun is a senior at Wilsonville High School.
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