Adolescents and Social Media: Growing Up Behind the Screens

By Rebecca Taylor

Today’s parents have a unique problem when it comes to parenting their children. In some cases, parenting is much easier. A whiny kid is easily pacified with an Ipad, and teens are staying in to be online instead of sneaking out. But the screen-time consumed by adolescents is starting to become excessive and dangerous, and they’re compromising their safety.

22% of teens use social media 10 times a day. In these developmental years, that’s a lot of time being spent behind their tech instead of being out in the world, experiencing life. Humans are incredibly attuned to social interactions, and teens are being deprived of those interactions.


When a teenager receives a like on a photo on Instagram, for example, the part of their brain that reacts to seeing a loved one lights up in the same sense. Social media is making adolescents dependent on validation. Research shows that “reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive in adolescence,” which shows why teens use social media so much.

Another negative aspect of adolescents on social media is the unfortunate trend in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is often manifested through harmful and harassing messages, and can include stalking or stealing sensitive information. 1 out of 3 kids has been sent a cyber threat, and half of them don’t tell their parents that the bullying is taking place. Sometimes it’s not even kids who are the bullies, occasionally it’s the parents. While there isn’t any concrete number on how many kids commit suicide over bullying every year, 20% of bullied kids consider suicide. That’s an awfully high number when it comes to harassing messages on a screen.

There’s also a phenomenon called “Facebook depression” where adolescents spend a significant amount of time on social media, like Facebook, then exhibit common depressive symptoms. They develop a reliance, then when they are separated they show signs of separation anxiety.

Of course there is some good from social media; it aides in social interaction. However, there is such a thing as being too young, and I think parents need to assess how much screen time their kids are getting.

Rachel Ehmke is a senior editor at the Child Mind Institute. “How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers.” Child Mind Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

“How does social media affect your brain.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, and Council On Communications and Media. “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 01 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.



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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism