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Teenagers & Social Media: Concerns and Realities

Teens on social media: Is it concerning?

A recent Pew Research Center report has brought attention to the fact that nearly one in five teenagers claim to be on TikTok or YouTube “almost constantly.” The survey of 1,453 13- to 17-year-olds revealed that YouTube is the most widely used platform, with 93% of respondents using it regularly, followed by TikTok (63%), Snapchat (60%), and Instagram (59%). While concerns about the impact of constant social media use on the youngest members of Gen Z arise, experts emphasize the need to understand what “almost constantly” means to each individual.

It’s an ongoing research

Megan A. Moreno, co-medical director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health, highlights the ambiguity of the term and suggests that it varies from one teenager to another. Some may consider brief morning interactions, while others include discussions and thoughts about social media throughout the day.

Research on how social media affects teenagers is ongoing, with concerns amplified by reports like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings that more than one in four teenage girls have seriously considered suicide, coinciding with increased social media use. However, the complex interplay of various factors makes it challenging to isolate the impact of social media.

Not as bad as it looks

Despite the alarm raised by the Pew data, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that there isn’t enough evidence to advocate for widespread restrictions. Instead, the report recommends that individual families create plans tailored to their children’s needs.

Moreno emphasizes that the focus should not solely be on screen time but on the content consumed. Parents are encouraged to engage with their children, watch social media content together, and pay attention to any behavioral changes, such as withdrawal or falling behind in schoolwork and social engagements.

Addressing concerns about the internet becoming a constant presence in teenagers’ lives, Pew’s data shows that nearly half of teenagers claim to use the internet “almost constantly.” However, with the internet integral to the schooling experience, the landscape has evolved since March 2020, with six out of 10 eighth graders relying on home internet for homework.

Connect positively

Moreno acknowledges the diverse social media landscape, noting that teenagers have various platforms to curate their online experiences. She emphasizes that high phone screen time doesn’t universally equate to negative experiences and suggests practical tools to navigate the challenges, urging parents to move beyond fear and actively engage with their children’s digital lives.

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