Youth Voice: Social media teenagers

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WHEN you think of your teenage years, what comes to mind? Senior year of high school?

Fun with friends and late-night joyrides? Classrooms and exams? A favourite teacher?

Maybe a scolding or a few detentions?

Most people look back at school, saying it was one of the best times of their lives.

My parents have always told me it’s the place where you learn skills not just for your job or degree, but skills for life.

Communication, presentation, friendships, relationships. School is the place where adolescents learn to function as members of society, build social connections and prepare them for higher education. But in the present day and age, school is quite different.

With the birth of technology and social media, the way teenagers will experience schooling has been forever changed.

With screenshots, recordings and the whole internet waiting for the next thing to “cancel”, the school social scene just got a whole lot harder.

The social wellbeing of teens has always been a hot topic of conversation. With hormones and puberty putting teens into sensitive emotional states and strange things going on with their bodies, it’s usually a time when teens want to withdraw from their parents and “rebel”.

With a new dawn of communication and a way of experiencing life that their parents never had, teenagers have flocked to social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Tik Tok for comedy, drama and life advice.

Whether you like it or not, your child has most likely come into contact with one or more social media platforms and that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

They keep in touch with friends easily, can share pictures and videos from their life, share their talents, view trending world topics, keep themselves entertained and maybe find a new hobby they want to try. Social media is not an inherently bad thing, just some people make it seem that way.

There are distasteful people everywhere in the world, but social media makes it easy for them to target teenagers and not get caught. Sometimes it’s even the teenagers doing the targeting.
Cyberbullying in schools is rampant; usually between girls, aimed at other girls, with the cover of anonymity backing up their confidence.
Anonymity is power on social media, and you can say whatever you want to whomever you want and then the next day pretend like you hadn’t called so-and-so derogatory term #1, #2 and #3, or such-an-such deprecatory title #4, #5 and #6.
You can be their tormenter and their best friend all at the same time, with little to no repercussions.
School becomes harder under the influence of social media, with beautiful people plastered on every app, highly edited and photoshopped; a game to some, a livelihood to others, with followers, “likes” and fame being their currency.
Confidence rises and falls rapidly on these apps, comparisons like “why am I not like girl A?” or “why does girl B have that many likes and follows” are normal.
Instagram even disabled seeing other people’s “likes” for this very reason. With girls aiming to be “skinny legends” and boys wanting “cool” haircuts; both wanting to be “trendy” to gain social acceptance, on and off screen.
I saw a good example of this at my school when I first moved to the Bay; at least half of the boys attending my school had mullets.
The haircut was making a resurgence in popularity late 2019 on short-form video app Tik Tok, and seemed to have stuck till February 2020 and later.
But is this healthy? To let the youth chase after unattainable lives, drop out of school for careers in social media, where in the end only very few will make something of it?
Is it wise to let these apps that focus on looks, wealth and miniscule amounts of talent define the lives of our world’s future?
We are currently in the first generation of teens who have grown up with social media all their lives, I guess we will have to see all the new ways that people come up with to battle this new man-made monster.