The effects of social media on kids has been seriously underestimated since in most cases they do not have the defense mechanisms maturity brings. (OK, defense mechanisms that maturity might bring as there plenty of adults out there who have major problems dealing with social media.)
Social media present people with multitudes of false impressions about how wonderful other people’s lives are as well as being used to torment and bully others, particularly teens. There have been times when social media has driven people to suicide, usually by way of cyberbullying. This is particularly true of teens.
Clearly, kids are in terrible pain. In trying to understand why, many conservatives have embraced ideas about the damaging effects of social media championed by Haidt and Twenge. The Republican senator Josh Hawley cited Twenge’s work in calling for a ban on social media use by kids under 16. “Depression and social media use go hand in hand,” he wrote in The Washington Post.As I have written elsewhere, social media tends to twist people’s perceptions of reality because social media is really cyberspace, and cyberspace isn’t reality. However, people treat it as if it is. Too often they don’t understand that most people try to paint a picture of their lives that is better than reality. People looking at those “My life is great” posts start to feel their own lives don’t measure up. This is particularly true of teens because too often they have little life experience to use as a comparison. It makes them vulnerable...but it’s something we can do something about by distancing our kids from social media. The question is, will we be brave enough to actually do so? We don’t need legislation to do so. We just need to be parents and tell our children “no” when they insist they absolutely must have a smart phone.
Social media has not connected or united the world. It’s tearing people apart. And young people are suffering the most. Researcher Jean Twenge, who has spent her career chronicling social media’s effects on kids, has observed that the longer children use social media, the more likely they are to harm themselves. This finding held true for both boys and girls — but especially girls. Depression and social media use go hand in hand.