The dark side of social media and protecting yourself

By Sofia Patronski

Social media is a staple for most teenagers. From vlogs of morning routines to clips of the next popular concert (Hey, Swifties!), teens are constantly posting and creating videos, as well as following other people’s lives.

Some people feel more connected to friends and relatives through these online touchpoints, and, as social creatures we need human interaction. But as much as social media keeps us connected, it can also tear us down.

According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, up to 95% of youth ages 13 to17 reported using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly.”

Not everything on the Internet is appropriate for kids and teens. This applies to social media, as well.

Students at Murray Middle School recently shared their opinions on social media use. One student who has the app ‘BeReal’ commented, “I don’t want to ‘be real’ right now … Part of me is scared of that judgment piece.”

When asked how it feels to see inappropriate social media content, another student said, “­Uncomfortable, and like I don’t want to go on social media ever again.” But that doesn’t stop most teens from scrolling through their feeds.

There is an even darker side to social media. Obsessively being on social media has increased loneliness, depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Cyber bullying can be a huge problem in social media. Donna Wick, a developmental and clini­cal psychologist, says, “Kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face.”

NBC news wrote a story about 15-year old Sadie Riggs, who was bullied at school and through social media. Her peers were telling her to kill herself, and eventually she did.

Despite these downsides, most Murray students commented positively on the joy of social media and staying connected to friends.

Rather than dumping social media altogether, consider reducing your social media use, or just making it a better experience: Set time limits, choose not to go online when you’re feeling bad, and silence your notifications or turn off your likes.

Once online, try not to compare yourself to others and, most importantly, post for your own enjoyment and not for other people’s approval. 

Sofia Patronski, an eighth grader at Murray Middle School, wrote this story as a part of her journalism class taught by Carrie Bittner. Patronski hopes to be a veterinarian one day. She enjoys reading and hockey.

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