Teens are vulnerable to cyberbullying and major mental health consequences from social media use and online behavior, according to research, at a time when the internet’s influence is everywhere for young people.
According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens aged 13 and up own a smartphone, and 97% use the internet on a daily basis. TikTok is used by 61% of 13- and 14-year-olds, whereas Snapchat is used by 51%. Older youth, ages 15 to 17, use those social media platforms more frequently, with 71% using TikTok and 65% using Snapchat.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN in an interview, “What is the right age for a child to start using social media? I worry that right now, if you look at the guidelines from the platforms, age 13 is when kids are technically allowed to use social media. But there are two concerns I have about that. One is I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early.” “It’s a time, you know, early adolescence, where kids are developing their identity, their sense of self. It’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships, and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”
It was reported in the Surgeon General Health Report- In recent years, there has been growing concern about the impact of digital technologies, particularly social media, on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Part of the challenge with research on this topic is that digital technology involves a vast range of devices, platforms, products, and activities, so it’s hard to generalize. Researchers also have limited access to data to inform potential research. Many researchers argue that digital technologies can expose children to bullying, contribute to obesity and eating disorders, trade off with sleep, encourage children to negatively compare themselves to others, and lead to depression, anxiety, and self-harm. Several studies have linked time spent on social media to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, others have cast doubt on the idea that technology or social media use is a major factor in youth wellbeing.
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Importantly, the impact of technology almost certainly varies from person to person, and it also matters what technology is being used and how.204 So, even if technology doesn’t harm young people on average, certain kinds of online activities likely do harm some young people. For example, some research has linked “passive” social media use (such as scrolling through posts and auto-play video) to declines in wellbeing (versus more “active” use such as commenting on posts or recording videos.
Republicans Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Rep. Ken Buck proposed legislation in Congress Wednesday to prohibit the video-sharing software TikTok from being downloaded on US devices (Colo.).
The plan is in response to claims made by Hawley, Buck, and other lawmakers, the majority of whom are Republicans, that the Chinese-based app poses national security dangers. TikTok has refuted the charges, particularly in light of escalating tensions between the federal and state governments.
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