Technology is always evolving and fashioning new inventive ways for people to connect with each other. One of the most common uses of new technologies, specifically by teenagers, is social media.
Although at first little was known about how social media impacts teens, the effects of social media on teens has become apparent. Research on social media and teens has revealed that technology may increase peer pressure and bullying while also resulting in increased substance use and mental health concerns.
The Evolution of Technology
Since the start of Internet public use in 1991, people have found innovative ways to use this technology. As technology has evolved and become readily available, teen Internet use has risen sharply.
With teen media consumption on the rise, companies are profiting from the media influence on teens. With industry reports deeming teens the most valued customers, targeted marketing to teens is unlikely to vanish. Today’s teens, known as Generation Z, are, as a group, constantly connected through technology than previous generations.
To understand the increase in teen technology use, statistics can be used to paint a clear picture of the new youth culture. Some important Generation Z technology facts to be aware of:
- Practically all teens, or 95% of them, have access to smartphones.
- Almost half of teens (45%) report being constantly connected through technology.
- Another 44% of teens are online at various times during the day.
- Most teens think social media use isn’t harmful.
- Less than one quarter (24%) of teens think social media is negative.
Social Media and Teens
As teen social media statistics have revealed, virtually all teens use social media and most believe their social media use has either a neutral or a positive effect on them. Despite a minority reporting negative effects of social media, some teens experience negative outcomes, including:
- 45% of teens feel overwhelmed by online drama.
- 43% of teens feel pressured to keep up a specific outward appearance online.
- 37% of teens feel pressured to receive virtual “likes”.
Regardless of recognizing these negative effects, teen social media use continues to increase. Although Facebook once dominated the market, teens prefer other platforms. Some of the most popular teen social media sites are:
Peer Pressure and Social Media
Teen peer pressure is an issue notwithstanding social media use; however, when combined, social media and peer pressure can be particularly harmful. With 59% of teens indicating that they have been bullied online, also referred to as cyberbullying, the ability for teens to feel pressure from social media is clear.
Peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol was once thought to be only occur at high school social gatherings, but social media has created a new system that encourages teen substance abuse. Studies have found that as many as 75% of teens felt pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs after seeing their friends post about these activities online.
Access to Drugs
Social media doesn’t just pressure teens to partake of substances, it serves as an outlet for online drug dealers. In some instances, this may mean social media drug dealing, where a person connects with someone they know, or a stranger, to set up a drug deal. In other cases, it may mean teens buying drugs online, usually through social media.
Whether bought through social media connections or bought from the “dark web,” teen drug use has been made easier with the evolution of technology. Because of the subversive nature of online drug dealing, researchers have had a hard time determining how many drugs are sold and to whom. Regardless of this lack of data, news reports of overdose deaths caused by substances bought online indicate that this is a serious problem.
Social Media and Mental Health
Social media subjects teens to more than drugs. The complex effects of peer pressure and unrealistic expectations of life facilitated through social media may result in increased teen mental health concerns.
While many perpetrators have been blamed for the increase in mental health issues amid young people, social media and mental health statistics clearly indicate that technology plays a huge part.
- Researchers who capped study participants’ use of social media to only 30 minutes each day discovered that after 3 weeks, participants felt less depressed and less lonely.
- In another study, researchers discovered that young women felt worse about their appearance and were displeased with their bodies after looking at social media profiles of women they considered more attractive.
Social media and mental health research has found a correlation between social media use and increased social anxiety, feelings of isolation and feelings of loneliness. Some have deemed that the measures of popularity created by social media such as friend counts and “likes” have contributed to a rise in depression. Others claim that seeing other people having fun and spending time with friends through social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy related to depression.
Considering how much time teens spend online, it is especially worrisome that as little as 2 hours online has been linked to an increase in risk factors for suicide. When the time spent online rises to 5 hours or more, the increase in suicide risk factors rises to 71%.