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Opinion

Opinion: How social media is ruining the lives of Gen Z

Companies and users alike can protect the mental health of adolescent teens by raising awareness.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/jakeli0/" target="_self">Jake Li</a>

Jake Li

June 25, 2022
The onset of the digital 21st century introduced technology to the likes of which humanity has never seen before, and along with that, came social media. With 9 out of 10 people from Gen Z having a phone in America, the countless hours teenagers spend on their phones every day means that teenagers are exposed to a lot more media influence than ever before, according to the New York Times.

Rates of depression, anxiety and suicide have exploded among teens in recent decades and sleep patterns have also been disrupted. A 2018 Pew Research Study tied social media use to increased connectivity of people to their friends and other strangers but also put pressure on media users to “prove themselves” with comments, likes and posts.

Instagram, Tiktok and Facebook are some of the most popular social media apps among teens that contribute to these negative trends. According to Columbia Public Health, adolescence is a time of growth and self-discovery for teenagers, but using social media often twists your self-image, and some teenagers begin to lose that sense of self in the impossible standards set by society, as amplified by media.

In a Britain study of 84,000 people, two of the surveys tracked more than 17,000 adolescents aged 10 to 21 showing how their social media usage and life satisfaction ratings changed from year to year. The study found that during children’s younger years, heavy use of social media correlated to a lower life-satisfaction rating the next year. For girls, this age period was between 11 to 13, while for boys it was between 14 and 15.

What’s even worse, according to Illinois State University, is the fact that on social media, people only post the best versions of themselves for others to see, which raises a lot of concern for teenagers who instantly set their appearance standards to be like those perfect pictures.

Engaging in photo-heavy activities on social media results in less body acceptance and a heavier obsession with appearance. It leads to many young teenage girls starving themselves and eventually developing an eating disorder simply because of social media’s portrayal of the “perfect” person as thin, athletic and good-looking.

So what can we do to protect our younger generation’s future?

Parents and adolescents alike can take initiative and begin setting time restrictions on phone usage. Various software apps released in recent years allow parental control on children’s phones to set time limits on how much screen time is allowed in a day.

The Guardian says that many corporations acknowledge how harmful social media is, but refuse to address that issue. Companies and users alike can protect the mental health of adolescent teens by raising awareness about the dangers and negative influences, while working actively to address them together.