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A deep dive into the sea of social media

Popular social media apps logos (Tik Tok, Instagram, X, and Snapchat)
Popular social media apps logos (Tik Tok, Instagram, X, and Snapchat)

Ding, there goes the ring of an 8-year-old’s phone.

The iPhone was created in 2007, the Android in 2008 and the Samsung in 2009. Most of Gen X bought their phones in their 30s, millennials bought their phones in their 20’s Gen Z bought their phone in their early teens. Nowadays, Gen Z children are starting to get phones with all social media apps in elementary school.

For example, children’s mental health is deteriorating using social media so young. Being on social media, everyone is exposed to a lot of scary things. Whether it is real world issues or even conspiracies, children are exposed to posts and information that make them worried about life they don’t need to think about yet. Parents also fear the countless child predators who disguise themselves as just another innocent social media user. Not to mention the awful mental health effects, creating depression.

Claude Mellins, professor of medical psychology at Columbia University spoke about the negative of social media.

“Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.”

Not only are children exposed to danger, they are starting to act a lot older than they should. Kids are invading Sephoras everywhere buying extremely expensive skin care and using it daily. One of the trendy skincare products going around is the brand Drunk Elephant –which carries extremely expensive products with unsafe active ingredients.

On Jan. 31 CEOs of Discord, TikTok, X, Meta and Snapchat stood before the senate and testified. The main topic of the hearing was the issue of loose restrictions of children on social media. The families of many children negatively affected by social media were there pushing for change. Many of these kids committed suicide or were trafficked by child predators.

These dangers are obvious to many parents. Science teacher and parent of three young children, Kirsten Ahrens has rules for iPad time to keep her children from any social media danger.

“My kids do not have social media,” Ahrens said. “They have iPads, but they don’t even use them during the week, and even on the weekends, I don’t let them use them. Only if we are going on long trips and even then, they just watch movies I downloaded from Disney+ or Netflix. We don’t even have a lot of games on there.”

Ahrens said she notices the effects of social media and too much screen time it has on other children and made the decision that her children won’t get social media right now or in the near future.

Science teacher Nicole Geiger has a different situation than most– she has six children who were all adopted from difficult home situations. In her children’s case all of their birth parents had their parental rights terminated (TPR), so because of the danger her children are not to be posted on any social media.

“There is a danger involved with their birth families, so if there was a scenario where there could be safe contact this wouldn’t be such a concern,” Geiger said. “But we avoid TikTok or social media. Even their awards and accolades are within the network of our school district or they don’t get posted publicly.”

In Geiger’s family, the restrictions may sound strict but they are largely needed for her children’s safety.

“Number one thing we monitor is duration because there’s addiction on both sides of the brain, and we know how addictive social media and technology is,” Geiger said. “We try not to water that weed. We learn to sit with our feelings, even if we are reading a book, we try not to bury ourselves into it forever. We try to have some balance, so we monitor duration and accessibility.”

For Geiger’s children, balance works. From Addiction Center, a site to help anyone with addiction and recovery from addiction. It is proven that social media does affect you negatively and it is very addictive. As a result children have social anxiety and low levels of empathy all from social media.

“An estimated 27% of children who spend three or more hours a day on social media exhibit symptoms of poor mental health,” according to Addiction Center.

Senior Taylor Sordi is a day care attendant and summer camp counselor at the Solon Recreation Center. She works with children ages 6-10 weekly and has noticed the change in behavior in kids these days from when she was a kid. For example, Sordi said she didn’t have a phone until age 13.

“I have noticed working with kids is that their social skills seem to be very different,” Sordi said. “When I say goodbye to them at the end of the day, they will completely ignore me or they won’t respond until their parents tell them to. Also with a lot of my campers, I have a really big issue with them seeing stuff online and repeating it, and often it is something that is inappropriate or something they don’t understand or disrespectful.”

Sordi said the change has been stark from Sordi’s days as an elementary schooler to the behaviors now.

“I think back then it [in her childhood] was more for fun, and now I think being on social media they miss out on a lot of social skills,” Sordi said. “I really understand not putting their kids on social media, but some parents won’t let their kids ever have social media, and I think that worries me because now they might miss out on social experiences other kids participate in. But you don’t want the kids to rely on it too much, and there are so many negative effects.”

But even Sordi just reminds herself social media doesn’t define her, and she can’t judge someone off their socials. Yet it is her creative outlet.

“I like to take Instagram pictures and make TikToks,” Sordi said. “But I also think that you can be introduced to dangerous things, you can be very easily influenced and hear information that isn’t true and people just run with it. What I have run into recently is finding a college roommate. You just have to judge people off of their social media pages, and someone who might appear weird to you based on what they post, you might get along with better than someone with a cooler Instagram.”

Ahrens said she believes that the main issue with technology is when parents don’t give their children enough rules and boundaries.

“I think the problem is [children] doing what they want when they want because in kids, and even in high school, brains aren’t fully developed,” Ahrens said. “You’re giving kids access to things they don’t need to see or know about at too young of an age when they can’t make decisions–just because the frontal lobe isn’t even fully developed, which is your personality and decision making, until mid-20s.”

Geiger also worries about children and how social media will affect their mental health just like most parents do.

“I am of the camp that every detail that someone thinks about you is probably none of your business, and people growing up now don’t have that as an option and that it is hard to develop a sense of self when you’re constantly being critiqued,” Geiger said. “You can’t just be and that makes me kind of sad. So I think that is the biggest thing I worry about them not feeling like they can be their own individual and not be scrutinized all the time.”

Something just about every parent can agree with is wishing they could completely protect their children from the ugly truths of social media, but sadly it isn’t possible.

“I wish I could repel the negative stuff but you can’t do that,” Geiger said. “There’s no filter for that… other people can be heinous, so you can’t filter out someone getting their feelings hurt, and I think that is what every parent would want to do.”

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