Throughout class, students discreetly take a peek at their smartphones as lights blink and screens flash. As soon as the teacher gives permission, every student in the classroom simultaneously pulls out their phone and checks their latest notifications.
Unlike their parents’ generation, teenagers today are living a large portion of their life through social media. However, there is a lot of talk on the negative effects it’s having on teenagers.
“We live for the likes we get on Instagram, the number of Snapchat streaks we have, and the amount of retweets on Twitter. We are a slave to the internet,” sophomore Jayci Gibbs said.
Academically, students find themselves so absorbed in their virtual lives that schoolwork may take a backseat. “Because I spend so much time scrolling through Instagram, I don’t have a lot of time to focus on my schoolwork,” sophomore Dariana Robledo said.
Aside from affecting students’ academic drive, social media is also affecting teenagers’ mental health.
A majority of communication is now through a screen. Lakeside’s high school counselor, Staci Newell, says that talking face-to-face has been so minimized, which has “heightened the social anxiety” among teens. “When you don’t grow up having to [physically] talk to people as the norm, you’re more anxious,” she said.
“I focus so much time on Instagram and Snapchat that I don’t spend as much time with my friends and family,” Robledo said.
“In friendships and relationships, we text or Snapchat more than we actually speak,” Gibbs said.
In the story “We Need to Talk About Teens and Smartphones” on Time.com, Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, reported,”Human beings are social animals. We…respond to eye contact and touch and shared laughter and real things right in front of us.”
Another struggle with social media, Newell says, is that bullies can easily hide behind a screen and type things they wouldn’t say face-to-face.
After an excessive amount of social media exposure, teens are often left in a dismal state.
“I look at other people and their lives, and catch myself wanting to be exactly like them. I end up feeling bad about myself,” Gibbs said.
Newell says that self-image is being “drug down” as teens have constant exposure to pictures that suggest everyone they follow online has a perfect life. She says this affects her generation, as well.
She said she followed a couple who would post happy pictures with each other everyday, then got divorced after just three months. People use social media to “overcompensate” for real happiness. “You only see the good,” she said.
In “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones,” Maryellen Pachler, a Yale-trained nurse practitioner who specializes in the treatment of adolescent anxiety disorders reported,’”My patients see their friends’ Snapchat or Instagram photos where they look so happy, and they feel like they’re the only ones faking it. I want to tell them, listen, this girl you’re jealous of – she was in here with me yesterday!”’
Robledo says that after scrolling through post after post of a famous, “flawless” model’s pictures, she is left feeling depressed and insecure.
With help from advanced online technology, people can use tools that make them appear more flawless than they do in real life. “Most of these pictures are edited and altered,” Robledo said. This facade leaves teens wishing they looked like a person who doesn’t technically exist.
“We Need to Talk About Teens and Smartphones” also mentions collected data between 2010 and 2015 from over 500,000 adolescents in the nation which shows that “kids who spent three or more hours a day on smartphones…were 34% more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome- including feeling hopeless…-than kids who use devices two hours a day or less.”
The study also found that “kids who used social media daily were 13% more likely to report high levels of depressive symptoms than those who used social media less frequently.”
“Something has to change and we can be the ones to do it..I’ve limited my time on Snapchat and some on Instagram, and honestly have never been happier. When I spend less time worrying about that stuff and more time with my friends, I am generally in a better mood. I think everyone should try taking breaks from it because it will truly benefit them,” Gibbs said.