Social media is embedded into modern culture. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, the list goes on and on. Within the last decade there have been increasing numbers of social media platforms, and their influence has expanded as well. Young people more than any other age
group are the ones who are committing the most time to it. On average, people between the
ages of 8 and 18 spend 11 hours and 18 minutes a day on some form of recreational media. That is almost half of their day! Seeing such a striking statistic made me wonder, does social media negatively affect adolescent development?
From the most three most relevant papers I found on this subject, it appears that social media affects adolescent development in three major ways. It affects our behavior, health, and self-esteem.
To begin with, there is a theory on behavioral learning called Social learning theory. It is the notion that children imitate behaviors they observe, particularly ones which result in favorable outcomes. So, the more time they spend observing celebrity behavior, or whomever they see on various media platforms, the more likely they are to normalize it, and reflect it into their own actions. So, if the president elect says something which makes grabbing a woman by the hoo-hah acceptable, the adolescent observer will absorb that information and translate it into their own behavior (probably not that extreme, but in other ways). This still holds true with the exposure to mature material such as sex, drugs, and violence. Per a paper by Victor C Strausberger, Amy B. Jordan, and Ed Donnerstein, being exposed to these concepts at such a young age can result in the mirroring of that behavior. This leads to increased aggression in adolescents, and increased participating in risky behavior
Our physical health is also impacted by social media. Engaging in social media is often a sedentary act. People watch YouTube, and scroll through Pintrest while sitting on their couches. There is a correlation between such heavy social media usage. This type of lifestyle has several negative health implications, including, but not limited to increased risk of heart attack, loss of lean muscle tissue, and depression. These are not the only health risks which are correlated with social media usage. So much screen time can also lead to developmental disorders such as ADHD. Also, youth who use social media tend to develop sleeping disorders as well. These are not all the negative physical health issues which can arise, but they are too numerous to list in this single blog post.
Lastly, social media can negatively affect one’s self esteem. A study conducted using Dutch adolescents, and a friend networking site, examined the relationship between the sites use and the self-esteem of the participants. Unlike I expected, their study found that the effect of this social media platform on self-esteem was directly related to the type of feedback the users would receive. The more positive comments they got, the better they felt about themselves, and the opposite effect occurred for negative comments. This is logical, but it still surprised me, so I looked to see if any other studies had had similar findings. As it turns out, this is not the only study which saw that it can be beneficial. I think that my own bias got in the way when I was making assumptions before reading the study.
After analyzing these papers, I do not think that there are any issues in terms of the science behind them. In my researching, I found copious numbers of papers on the subject, probably because of its current prevalence, so I do not think it suffers from the file drawer problem. Also, because they looked at specific things, I do not think it suffered from the Texas sharp shooter problem either. And they are all published works, which means they have been subjected to peer review in order to get here. The bit that I did find challenging was the experiment relating to self esteem. This was based on self reported, self reflection on how the participants were impacted, and self esteem is a solf endpoint and therefore difficult to effectively mesure.
Overall, yes, social media does have a negative effect on adolescent development for the most part. The exception to this being that the reception on one’s profile on social media, and how it affects adolescent self-esteem. Based on this, I think that the best thing for SC200 students to do would be to consider whether the risks of these effects, and the effects themselves are worth it to you. If nothing else, they should try to be more aware of their social media consumption, and its influence on their life.