Social Media Impacts on Adolescent Health

Introduction

Teenagers in the contemporary world use the internet to communicate, socialize and gather information. The capability of interacting with others forms the unique feature of social media that offers exciting fresh ways for young people to navigate and create their own social environments. Additionally the usage of social media by teenagers takes place concurrently with their developing identity, physical development, emerging sexuality and moral consciousness.

Thesis statement

Teenagers’ social media usage surpasses any other group: despite it having numerous positive impacts on teenage development it poses serious negative effects to their health and growth.

Advantages of social media towards adolescent health

Social media usage is linked to numerous benefits towards adolescent health and development such benefits are such as (Carroll et al., 5):

  1. Social networking assists adolescents in finding online support which lacks in traditional relationships, particularly those who are marginalized, for instance gays, lesbians, and bisexuals or those living with a disability or an illness
  2. Majority of the teens utilize online networks in extending the friendships they previously have in their lives. Social networking sites offer a platform for experiencing connectedness along with opportunities to learn from one another.
  3. Social media allows a supportive setting of exploring romance, social status and friendship, whilst also offering teens a chance to share and debate music preferences, movies along with other elements of teen culture.
  4.   Teens also utilize social media in acquiring information regarding their health concerns such as dietary or body fitness information.
  5. Mobile Phones along with features such as texting have become very popular amongst teens and their parents. Parents like the fact that they can contact their kids anytime no matter where they are.

What do adolescents do online?

A study done in California (with N=760) in the US determined a number of teen activities online.

Join an online group on MySpace or Facebook to support a cause54%
Posting creative artwork or writing done53%
Sharing videos or music individually created50%
Organizing or inviting individuals using MySpace or Facebook45%
Volunteering to a non-profit organization34%
Engaging in online study groups24%

 (Carroll et al., 3)

Thus as can be witnessed teens engage in mostly socialistic activities as compared to studies within the social media. To teens it is all about socializing and sharing photos, videos and so on.

Risks of social media to teens

Whilst social media is an integral component of teenage life it is associated with numerous risks particularly psychological health, cyberbullying, sexting, illegal content, exposure for sexual harassment and privacy violations. Additionally the risks which teens face online are equivalent to the ones faced offline (Lenhart et al. 30). Nevertheless the risk intensity varies with the type of social media and the mental makeup of the adolescent.

Social media versus adolescent psychological health

In the study carried out in California US: a majority of the teens who use social media regularly maintain a good relationship with their parents and friends and are cheerful in school. However, peer rejection along with lack of close friends form the major predictors of negativity and depression (Clifford 26). Adolescents who heavily use social media are greatly likely to be in trouble, unhappy and bored. Some teens indicated that Facebook at times initiates fights. Sixty-eight percent of girls reported having a negative experience within the social networking sites within the California base study.

Cyberbullying

Utilization of social media introduces emotional distress opportunities due to receiving threats, humiliating messages or harassment from another teen; this is referred to as cyberbullying. During the California study (Carroll et al., 6):

  1. About 23% among the teens reported having been threatened, that is both online and offline.
  2. Cyberbullying was found to cause higher depression levels along with anxiety for victims. This is connected to cases of teen suicide with cases of reading hurtful messages days prior to suicide attempts.
  3. The youths who are mostly at cyberbullying risk are the gays, lesbians, transgender and the bisexuals with 54% of these teens indicating having been bullied within the previous one month.
  4. The cyberbullying victims are also probable perpetrators.

Sexting/texting

A number of teens utilize messaging responsibly and it remains as being the most powerful communication channel. However it is also a very powerful tool that would be used irresponsibly (Clifford 15). Teens engage in sexual enticement texting known as sexting which is potentially dangerous since it may lead to rapes and sexual harassment. For instance during the study in California:

  1. 52 % of teens indicated having received or sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude messages, images or videos. This is a dangerous practice whose outcomes are extremely critical
  2. Teens were also found having an embarrassing image or video posted transmitted through social media such as YouTube and Facebook.
  3. 56% of the teens reported regretting after sending a text a sensitive text message.
  4. Teens engaged in relationships usually receive nude photos or pressured to transmit their pictures. This can also incorporate constant messaging and posting of cruel messages on MySpace or Facebook about their partners after a break up.

Online sexual predation and solicitation

This is the act of forcing an individual to speak about sex, engage in sex, do something sexual, and transmit personal sexual information and so on. Teens experience these instances in a wide range than any other age group either between themselves or from other older people. Sexual predation happens once an adult contacts a minor with the intention of engaging in sex (Gross et al. 20). The California study indicated that 13-17% of teens have experienced sexual predation online. Sexual solicitation occurs between the same-ages and is rated as being the highest between 40-44%.

Privacy

Most of the teens usually provide their entire information online while creating profiles in the social media. Additionally they do not protect their profiles against unknown intruders. This results into other individuals accessing these sites and ‘stealing’ this information which at times leads to such cases as kidnapping.   

Recommendations

Parents along with caregivers require enlightening themselves with regards to social media along with methods in which teenagers might use it in addition to the common risks involved. This enlightenment   will help parents advise their children properly and assist them avoid the risks (Lenhart et al. 10). Parents will be able to discuss with their kids the media topic and advise them on the amount of personal information fit to be disclosed. For the community a greater amount of resources require to be directed to learning institutions, libraries to assist in adopting social media risk management strategies.  Social services along with psychological health experts must extend their expertise towards online spaces.

Conclusion

Social media has altered ways in which teens socialize and learn. Though social media has to a great extent contributed highly towards positive teen mental and physical growth it poses an even bigger risk to their lives. Due to teen’s naivety and inquisitiveness coupled with blindness regarding social media threats, adults and parents require to take up the responsibility of advising and directing them towards positive usage of social media. A multi-prolonged structural approach which utilizes compound social media channels could be established to relay to teens accurate health information.

Works Cited

Clifford, Stephanie. “Straight talk on digital harassment for teenagers – The New York Times.”The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 2009. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/technology/27iht-adco.1.19705877.html?_r=0

Gross, Elisheva F., Jaana Juvonen, and Shelly L. Gable. “Internet use and well-being in adolescence.” Journal of Social Issues (2002): n. pag. Print.

Jasmine, Carroll, et al. “Impact of social media on adolescent behavioral health. Oakland, CA: California Adolescent Health Collaborative.” Public Health Institute. N.p., 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. http://www.phi.org/uploads/application/files/g9g6xbfghdxoe3yytmc1rfvvm8lt1ly9sr3j369pstkojdly15.pdf

Lenhart, Amanda, et al. “Teens and Mobile Phones | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. N.p., 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/04/20/teens-and-mobile-phones/

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