by Grace Krane, Madi Miller, and Riley Hodges
With every snap of a picture and buzz of a phone, social media targets teens while inadvertently instilling fear. The Centers For Disease Control’s recent announcement of an increase in the number of teenagers experiencing intense sadness has given rise to the effects of social media on mental health (CDC).
According to the Children’s Bureau, the average age of students getting their first phone, and access to social media, is now between 12 and 13 years old. While children and teens are being exposed to social media at younger ages, many remain uneducated in how to interpret the differing opinions and misrepresentation of social standards, leading to harmful mental health effects.
In an anonymous, random survey of 12 students from a study hall at Bellbrook High School, all of those who responded started using social media when they were 12 years old or younger.
With students using social media at younger ages, the survey also indicated that cell phone users start to use social media more frequently at younger ages.
Students using social media more often at younger ages expose them to unrealistic standards and social anxieties that can affect their mental and social health.
Unrealistic standards of how women and men are supposed to look are largely skewed on social media as compared to the realistic posts that many young children and teens view.
While the competition to become the most popular or obtain a large amount of likes is increasing, people are motivated to post more information and pictures from exotic locations with extra filters and surrounded by people. Ultimately, while this may satisfy the insecurities of some, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is instilled in others.
Through the random survey conducted during a BHS study hall, one student commented, “When I find others hanging out on social media, it makes me feel left out and overall is not good for me mentally.”
FOMO can be linked to depleting mental and physical health in all people (Economic Times). FOMO can lead to a compulsive dependency to check social media and be a part of others’ lives. While it may seem avoidable through not checking social media, FOMO is a formed dependence that children and teens develop and rely on to feel connected to one another.
FOMO can also be instilled through unrealistic standards of perfection, often highlighted through social media. An anonymous student surveyed said the most common unrealistic standard they see in social media is, “Always being happy, perfect life, and a perfect body,” as well as, “Being surrounded by friends nearly all of the time.”
Unrealistic expectations and standards continue to spread FOMO and increase the number of teenagers struggling with mental health. While the use of social media increases, proposed solutions to FOMO and unrealistic standards are quickly trailing.
If you have the urge to harm yourself, regularly feel sad or hopeless, are with a person who harms you physically or emotionally, or if you just feel like you need someone to talk to, please call 988, and talk to your parents or an adult whom you trust.