Social media has become a ubiquitous aspect of teen culture. Across America, millions of teenagers log onto their Facebook and Twitter accounts to play games and keep up with their friends. Yet, because this technological advent has been uncritically accepted as a typical teenage activity, the harms that social media cause to young people have been left without question. Yet, in consideration of the detrimental impact that social media has on youth development, policymakers must restrict the use of social media in adolescents under the age of eighteen.
The term social media refers to networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, and YouTube, which enable peer-to-peer interaction over the Internet. According to research in the American Academy of Pediatrics publication Pediatrics, 22 percent of teenagers log into a social media site at least ten times per day, and over 50 percent of teenagers log into a social media site at least one time per day (O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson 800). While social media use is a popular and enjoyable activity for many youths, evidence demonstrates that social media use can leave teens vulnerable to severe acts of cyberbullying that result in anxiety and suicidal ideation (801). Further, in a phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” researchers are finding that preteens and teenagers who spend more time on social media sites develop symptoms of depression (802). As one study of young adults revealed, the extended use of Facebook over a 14-day period decreased their overall satisfaction with life (Kross et al. 1-2). Another danger of social media use is that an estimated 20 percent of teens have transmitted pornographic images of themselves over their mobile devices or the Internet (O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson 801). As the research reveals, social media has ever-expanding consequences for youth that must be addressed.
If the research is correctly understood, then action must be taken to limit the use of social media among adolescents. First, adults have an obligation to protect youth from cyberbullying. When adults see acts of bullying at school or in their communities, they are compelled to step in and aid the child who is being bullied. Yet, the Internet currently provides an environment where kids can harass one another without oversight from adults. This gap must be closed in order to protect the well being of kids. One suggestion is to impose school monitoring of social media. Further, policymakers should be concerned about the adverse impact that social media has on the psychological health of children. Because even parents are unaware of the connection between social media use and depression, policymakers must step in to protect families from this lesser-known danger of social media use. Finally, the law must unquestionably be used to prohibit the sexual exploitation of teenagers. When minors share sexually explicit materials online, the opportunity for non-minors to access this material leads to wider legal liabilities and ramifications.
The main objective of the idea of restricting teenage social media use is that it infringes on the freedom of adolescents. Opponents of regulating social media might argue that learning to navigate challenging situations is an important part of growing up. However, the government currently has a precedent of stepping in to monitor teenage Internet use. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits websites from collecting information on children who are under the age of thirteen without parental consent (O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson 802). Following the passage of this law, many websites have responded by setting a minimum age for using their website (802). As these regulations demonstrate, society does recognize the obligation to override the freedom of adolescents in order to protect them from predatory behaviors or other sources of harm.
The harmful effects of social media are well documented. As an increasing number of youth are using social media daily, they are increasing their exposure to cyberbullying, depression, and inappropriate sexual materials sent from their peers. Because the Internet creates a sphere that evades adult supervision, society must step in to make the Internet experience safer for youth. In order to prevent widespread mental health consequences from social media use, policymakers must place appropriate restrictions or teen social media use.
Kross, Ethan, et al. "Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-being in Young Adults." PLoS One 8.8 (2013): 1-6. ProQuest.Web. 4 Feb. 2014.
O’Keefe, Gwenn S., and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson. “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” Pediatrics 127.4 (2011): 800-804. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.