Social Media: What Teens Think and What Parents Don’t Know

Good morning. It’s Thursday. The surgeon general says social media carries a “deep risk” for young people. We’ll see how New York teenagers reacted to his warning.

The Public Health Service’s surgeon general issued a public advisory this week, warning that social media can harm young people. Teenagers “are not just smaller adults,” said surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy. “They’re in a different phase of development, and they’re in a critical phase of brain development.”

He sounded the alarm in a 19-page report that recommended families keep meals and in-person gatherings device-free. He also said tech companies should enforce minimum age limits “in a way that respects the privacy of young users” and ensure that default settings for children “are set according to safety and privacy standards.” highest confidentiality”.

I spoke with our education reporter, Troy Closson, who, along with several colleagues, gathered feedback on the report from New York’s children and teens.

The Surgeon General’s report indicates that social media can harm the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents, but it also indicates that the effects of social media on adolescent mental health are not fully understood. The research is inconclusive and somewhat contradictory.

This is one of the challenges.

Teenagers themselves will tell you that there are downsides to social media. They talk about having bad experiences with cyberbullying or facing discrimination online or receiving a huge buildup from classmates.

But the surgeon general himself acknowledged that there were benefits. The Upshot had a story about how social media can be crucial for many LGBTQ teens.

You’ve spoken to children and teenagers, telling them the Surgeon General has warned that social media poses a ‘risk of deep harm’. What did they say?

The reaction to the news was often “we already knew that”. For many people, the value of Dr. Murthy’s report was not new information, but the fact that it brought together what exists.

Some teens said that most of the time adults don’t fully understand the benefits of social media. They talked about how Instagram opened their eyes to new careers or how TikTok taught them about new cultures.

They also said that while they are already aware of some of the harms, it is important to be more upfront about them in order to better deal with them.

I think that’s where we are, trying to create a roadmap for the reality of today’s world. Children will use social networks. How can we ensure that their experiences are as smooth as possible?

According to adolescents, what are the harms?

Many teens said one of the issues was the amount of time they spent online in the first place.

Our colleague Wesley Parnell also spoke to several middle schoolers who said people had tried to hack into their accounts, impersonated them, and had their reputations tarnished because of rumors.

For other students, being in an online world beyond social media can be difficult. Some have attacked the fact that they often see what an “ideal” body and figure look like in pictures online. They look at each other and compare. So spending time on the Internet affects their own self-image.

But this is nothing new.

It’s not. It’s one of those things that teenagers have been dealing with for a long time and that’s getting more and more political attention.

One of the teenagers we spoke to is in his second year of high school. She said that when she was 11 years old in middle school, she started an art account on Instagram. She wanted to make a business out of it and “make a name for herself”. But she was so focused on views, likes, comments and shares that she really started to lose her sense of herself as an artist even at that young age. She’s thought about how she wants to use social media and her own personal guidelines so she doesn’t fall back into it.

Didn’t the Surgeon General’s report highlight something that was true long before the arrival of social media – many, if not most, parents live in different worlds than many, if not most teenagers?

Many teens we spoke to said: Their parents have no idea how often they use social media or what they do online.

Some felt that, rather than passing laws or bringing in tech companies, the best way forward is for families to be more aware of what’s going on — and for kids to be more willing to share what’s going on. ‘they do. At the same time, some parents themselves are looking for help to navigate it all.

A student our colleague Olivia Bensimon spoke to spoke of a truly painful experience with cyberbullying. She described it as having a real nervous breakdown. She confided in friends, but she didn’t tell her parents. Some teenagers said they faced overwhelming situations like this and wondered, “Next time, should I tell my parents? »

Another student told us that the current national conversation misses the biggest problem. Some young people go to social media and spend a lot of time online as an escape, and find communities and stability that they might struggle to get in the real world. Teens told us they hoped adults would focus on why.

Some places have passed laws requiring parental consent for young people to go on social media. But it’s useless, isn’t it? Social media is just something you must have.

This is one of the first things we heard from the teenagers we spoke to. Ultimately, requiring parental consent is just one more barrier for children, and they will get around it.

Social media is obviously at the heart of how many young people not only communicate, but how they deal with the world – I’m Gen Z myself, and it’s a huge part of my life. And for many teenagers we interviewed, they agree there is potential harm, but when it comes to what the solution is, the answer is less clear to them.

Dr Murthy called on tech companies to enforce minimum age limits. But some kids have told you there’s no incentive for social media companies to limit who can sign up and log in.

We are currently in a youth mental health crisis that has worsened with the pandemic, but it had started before. There have been questions about the roles social media and tech companies could play in this crisis. But even as pressure mounts on tech companies to make changes, experts say caveats in existing laws limit the real effect they will have on young people.


Enjoy a sunny day with highs near 69 and light winds. At night, expect mostly clear skies and lows around 53 with light winds.


Effective today. Suspended tomorrow (Shavuot).


Dear Diary:

It was early evening on an unusually warm Friday night in February. I walked briskly along Fifth Street toward Second Avenue and wondered if we were getting the first taste of spring trying not to trip over broken sections of sidewalk.

I saw a man walking towards me. He was holding a phone to his ear. As he got closer, he pulled the phone away from his face.

“Marco! ” He shouted.

He put his phone back to his ear and paused.

“Marco! he shouted again.

This time I heard a voice answer behind me from across the street.

“Polo!” said the voice.

The man smiled when we passed each other

—Rachel Misner

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Submit your submissions here And read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button