In today’s world, we rely heavily on technology. As a result, a type of social law has formed, requiring everyone to have somewhat of an online presence. This demand continues to grow as the internet expands its platforms and continues to connect people all around the globe.
With this growth we see the largest impact on teenagers specifically, especially in regards to social media networks. However, the question that rings through many minds is, how much does social media actually affect teens, specifically high school students?
In a survey I conducted taken by students in California, Texas, Washington, and Arizona, they were asked
questions about their overall online experience during their high school years. When asked how much time they spend on social media per day, 43.2% of the students said about two or more hours, 29.5% said between one and two hours, and 27.3% said they are on these sites for 30 minutes to an hour. However, this amount of time is not necessarily spent on one platform.
About 50% of the surveyed students have said to have more than three accounts on various networking sites, including Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc. While this data seems to indicate that technology is taking over the lives of high school students’ lives, only 36.4% of the teenagers said that it regularly interferes with their school work.
When discussing the negative effects that social media has on high school students, there were only two that were consistently given by the teenagers: distraction and cyber bullying.
The internet “distracts [them] from things [they] need to do like homework or chores,” says one Texas student.
They become easily sidetracked by multiple networking sites, especially when they are easily accessible through their phones. However, based on the information given by the surveyed high schoolers, this is not a regular occurrence. Even when it does occur, the biggest repercussion is a an hour of two of lost sleep which has no major effect when not systematic, which most students said is not the case. The second major consequence is cyber bullying which is regularly discussed when discussing social media and teenagers because it is so prevalent. The students surveyed explained how they have experienced the problem themselves or have seen it happen to others, both directly and indirectly.
With the anonymity that comes with an online space comes the ability for people to target one or more persons very easily and without consequences. Unfortunately, this leads social media to, at times, have a very negative impact on one’s self esteem and can also alter the way people feel they need to present themselves.
The positive outcomes, however, seem to outweigh the negative according to these high schoolers.
Social networking allows teenagers to “get exposed to a range of lifestyles” and to “educate [themselves] on important topics,” said two California students. Along with being able to learn about subjects otherwise untaught, students are able to easily keep in contact with friends and family.
According to a sophomore from Washington, these sites also “help in being more comfortable talking and expressing ideas” as well as provide “a place to share […] experiences.” The internet provides a safe space for many high school students as they make the transition into adults and question their identities, especially when many of the surveyed teenagers admitted to being socially influenced by social media.
While it is important to ensure that teenagers develop good habits that will prepare them for adulthood, after seeing the results provided by a group of students from all levels of high school it seems that social media does not largely have a negative impact on their social or academic life. It does not regularly prevent them from doing their homework or communicating with their friends and family. In fact, when taking all aspects of their lives, there were no surveyed students who have had a completely negative experience online. It has, however, lead many teenagers to become more informed and educated which will definitely help them when entering adulthood.
The answers provided by the surveyed students shows that while it can distract teenagers and cause them to question their identities, it overall provides a safe place for them to grow and educate themselves on topics ranging from social problems to current events. By somehow limiting the amount of time spent on a social media app and addressing the problem of cyber bullying we can alleviate negative experiences and expand on the positive aspects brought by social networking.
Featured Image by Annika Honselaar.