Is Social Media Positive for Teens?

Estefany Pacheco, Staff Writer

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Can you live without your phone?

Think about that for a moment. How important is your phone to your life? According to recent studies, the vast majority of Americans are so connected to their phone that they, in fact, cannot really live without it. While this may seem sad at first, there are a multitude of reasons why phones are so important in people’s lives including social media, which is the primary reason that teens cite most in respect to the importance of technology in their lives.

Social media has pros and cons to it because it can either enhance your daily life or it can have a negative effect. Social networking is defined as individuals communicating with one another, sharing photos, videos and other entertainment. For young people, according to a 2015 report by Pew Research Center writer Amanda Lenhart, social media is an essential part of their lives and is something that provides a number of options. Leinhart reported in 2015, “Teens are diversifying their social network site use. A majority of teens — 71% — report using more than one social network site out of the seven platform options they were asked about.”

In 2015, Leinart reported that the most popular social media sites for teens were, in order, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. However, this has changed over the last two years as Science Daily reported in 2017 that a new survey among teens age 13-17 conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that “Snapchat and Instagram are most popular social media platforms among American teens.” The study also found that “…while almost all teens — 91 percent — use the regular text messaging tool on their mobile phones, 40 percent of teens also use messaging applications like Kik, WhatsApp, or Line on a smartphone.” Ultimately, the statistics make it quite clear that social media is an essential aspect in the lives of teens.

Paint Branch freshman Umu Jalloh Bah finds Snapchat and Instagram to be the best social media apps because they’re easier to use, not confusing, and more people she knows are on those social networks. As for how essential social media is in a teen’s life, Bah says, “people need social media a lot. It’s a daily thing because it’s a habit and you feel like if you don’t check it, life will be over and teens will freak out.”

Senior Alexis Leonard says Twitter is her preferred social media app because it covers all topics and it shows her news and has more to look at than any other social media. Leonard sees social media as “useful, because it keeps me in touch with family I don’t see everyday.” She adds that it “helps me to see hobbies and things that interest me.”

However, with all of this time spent online, specifically on social media, some feel that teens – and all people – must find a way to take a break and disconnect from time-to-time. There are many ways to take a break from social media says USA Today writer Marc Saltzman. According to Saltzman, “The first thing you need to decide is if you should completely unplug from social media or simply want it under control. Either option is fine. But you’ll need to figure out if you should rip the Band-aid off and fully abstain from social media, or give yourself a bit of a detox and merely cut it back to, say, 30 minutes a day.” He also states that people who decide to sign off for an extended period should “Surround yourself with (offline) people…spend some time with people who authentically enjoy the physical company of others — and not incessantly posting photos for their online friends to see and comment on.”

Leonard admits that she can handle a lot of days without social media. “I definitely would not freak out about it,” she states.

Tommy Nguyen, a junior, says giving up social media is bad and something he would struggle with. He states, “giving social media a break is bad because I will get disconnected from my social media friends .Taking a break from social media will also make me unable to communicate with my friends as most of my friends text or communicate via social media such as Snapchat or Instagram.”

Freshman Obehi Oniha agrees with Nguyen, noting the disconnect she would feel. “Taking a break from social media such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook is a negative thing because I won’t be able to associate with my friends at school and I can miss out on important news like not having school, and classroom announcements,” says Oniha.

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