There’s no doubt that social media is popular among teenagers. They love posting photos, videos, and updates, and they flock to platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
95% of surveyed teens have a smartphone, and nearly 50% of them are on social media constantly, according to a 2018 study released by Pew Research. While it might seem positive that teens are spending so much time talking to one another, social media might not be the best or healthiest way for them to get the social interaction they crave.
Despite the popularity of social media platforms, a disturbing trend is emerging. 22% of adults report always feeling alone despite heavy social media use. It’s very likely that teens suffer from the same sense of isolation.
To understand why isolation is a growing problem and how we can encourage positive changes, it’s important to know what kinds of platforms young people are using. The following are five social media apps that have changed how today’s teens and preteens socialize with one another.
The platform known for beautiful photos, easy-to-use filters, and endless selfies, Instagram is all about photos and videos. Teens use the platform to share a visual diary of their lives and to follow celebrities and brands they like.
Instagram isn’t just a place for posting photos and connecting with friends, though. According to Business Insider, marketers will spend nearly $15 billion on Instagram influencer partnerships in 2022. Companies pay top dollar for sponsored posts and advertising, hoping to cash in on the spending power of Millennials and Generation Z.
Many teens see edited and posed shots on Instagram that are intentionally created to look casual and effortless, despite being anything but. That can lead to unhealthy comparison, plus the added pressure of creating posts that get a lot of “likes” can be damaging to young people at a crucial period in their lives.
On most platforms, pictures and videos live forever. On Snapchat, they only stick around for 24 hours. Teens use the platform to send photos and videos to one another, using filters and effects to enhance their messages.
Because the “snaps” are temporary, many teens are more uninhibited when sending messages to their friends. This can be extremely dangerous since there’s nothing to prevent someone who receives the message from taking a screenshot or recording the video.
Teens need to be aware that everything they do online can be captured and stored. Sensitive content on Snapchat could affect their reputation and be used against them. Snapchat might seem like a casual, fun app—but it has a dark side when you consider how the content could be used to emotionally harm young people who haven’t thought through what they send over the internet.
There’s a lot to like about YouTube for people of all ages—there really is something for everyone! But as with any tool or platform, there are also dangers for young people.
Teens can use YouTube to share their lives, which can open them up to cruel or inappropriate comments. Plus, they may regret sharing their personal lives with the world as they get older and enter the workforce.
Even watching videos isn’t always as innocent as it seems. Some content is violent or sexual, and the platform actively encourages excessive viewing. It’s important for parents to be aware of and involved in their teen’s YouTube usage to prevent these issues.
Young people love micro-content that can be consumed in just a few seconds, and Twitter fits the bill perfectly. Instead of writing long updates, users are limited to 280 characters.
Teens can keep up with their favorite artists and celebrities as well as their friends. One of the biggest downsides to this is how fast negative information can spread on the platform. Negative and mean tweets can quickly be re-tweeted and affect a teen’s self-esteem and social life.
Like all social media sites, it’s important for teens to realize that Twitter is a public space and that anything they add to the site is potentially permanent, even if they delete it.
Screen media time has increased to more than 4 hours per day for 62% of teens, and online video content is a huge reason why. New platforms like TikTok have been engaging teens to create their own videos, rather than just watching content created by others.
TikTok is a controversial app that focuses on lip-syncing, talent, and comedy videos. Teens can’t get enough of it, but there are legitimate concerns that are common with most other apps. Videos can generate negative attention or even be made without a teen’s consent.
Solutions: A Focus on Wellness
While it’s not realistic to think that teenagers will abandon social media entirely, it’s important to encourage other activities to help improve wellness and mental health. Around 1.9 million children and teens have been diagnosed with depression, and social media use can definitely be a contributing factor.
As a parent, it’s important to set boundaries and provide alternatives. Encourage in-person socializing, regular exercise, mindfulness, and a healthy diet. Set limits on screen time and make sure you’re up to date on how your teen is using these apps. It’s important for teens to learn how to regulate their online habits and improve their wellness for a happy, healthy life.