Mass Media and its Effect on Children

Social media has gotten huge over the last decade, which can be extremely harmful to children today, from the way they are pressured into “growing up” to creating destructive lifestyle choices. The internet is introduced to kids at a young age, therefore exposing them to everything, which can be a lot.

Almost every child today owns some device. An article from Todaysparent.com says, “the average age when kids get their first smartphones is around ten years old.” When you go out to eat, how many kids do you see with an iPad or smartphone? Are we introducing children to technology and social media too early?

Joining the internet around the age of ten, in my opinion, is too early. I received my first Samsung tablet around age nine. Children’s minds are just starting to develop and process the information they are exposed to, so downloading any social media such as Instagram can have a negative impact on a child.

The internet can be helpful for multiple things like searching up a simple question, but it can also be very toxic. Adults are posting and talking about unrealistic body standards not only for women but for men too. If a child sees a post about how much a skinny, slim body is desirable, they may think less of themselves since they might not fit the beauty standard society has engraved in their brains. Growing up, seeing people preach about a specific body type may cause a person of any age group to develop depression, self-hate, or an eating disorder. One in seven men and one in five women experience an eating disorder at some point in life by the time they are forty. This statistic makes you think: does social media contribute to these numbers?

Back before social media, kids could compare themselves to their peers, but now with apps like Instagram, it can worsen. Unlike comparing yourself to people you see in person, you can see people online that use apps such as Photoshop, Facetune, filters, and any other type of photo editing app to enhance their appearance, and the worst part is some will lie about what they’re doing, creating unrealistic goals for children and teens. An article called “5 Ways Social Media Can Trigger an Eating Disorder” says, “Evidence shows that the parts of the brain that govern reasoning and good decision-making skills are not fully formed until the early 20s, so it’s no wonder that teens are so easily convinced that what they see on social media represents reality”(clementineprograms.com). Adding on from that article, they state that “65% of people with an eating disorder say that bullying contributed to it, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).”

Being on the internet can come at the cost of being harassed and bullied, and even though some people may say that you can block the person bullying you, their words still stick to you, especially as a kid. Bullying is something we have created over the years and tried to minimize, but it won’t ever entirely stop since the internet is filled with negativity and trolls. Teens will feel like they don’t fit in or belong because they grow up being influenced by people online saying you have to look or act a certain way to be accepted. Not only is it their appearance that causes kids/teens to have low self-esteem but their personality.

Social media can lower a person’s self-worth by commenting on how someone can be weird for liking a specific interest. An article titled “Social media affects teen’s self-esteem, personal identity” states, “Social media can affect a teen’s self-esteem by changing their entire styles such as clothes, music, and personality and even change what kind of friends they have. These conflicts that teens deal with throughout the social media world can create a massive amount of depression as teens struggle to be socially “accepted” (omahacentralregister.com). The impact social media has on teens these days can be harmful psychologically, these type of habits is what we can obtain without even realizing sometimes. Looking back at your past self is when you start to reflect and know you changed parts of yourself to fit in.

Teens may act differently on social media than they do in real life. What do you think may cause this? There are multiple leading factors to this behavior. In a study by Professors Keith Wilcox of Columbia University and Andrew T. Stephen of the University of Pittsburgh, they tested out in trials to make people act differently online. Being on social media for multiple hours a day and observing what others post can make us less self-aware, causing us to have lower self-control. This can make us post content we usually wouldn’t. Since teens are constantly trying to fit in, they may act a certain way to please their friends. “Strong ties, or close friends, are the root of our self-esteem inflation and determine how we act on Facebook. In the end, they are who we want to impress, why we keep up with digital appearances and what we ultimately base our online identity on” (huffpost.com).

Mass media can impact our daily lives and how we are perceived online to the “real world.” I’m not saying that all people are alike and that they all can relate to this article, but most people are like this if they want to admit it or not. We let social media affect our personalities and our mental health in negative ways. Of course, we shouldn’t let others define who we are, but social media has sadly gotten to our heads and the validation of others. Anyone who posts on social media can spread false information, and people are more willing to accept incorrect information than factual information. Mass media has made people become evil and create these personas, but there is also positivity with evil. With more people online being vocal about their opinions, body positivity has gotten bigger.

So, think about how social media affects your life. Do you think children should be exposed to social media and their own phones at an early age?

Popular name brands have been perceived as “cool” over the past couple of years by the media’s influence. When I was younger, you would see everyone in their Skechers and Walmart clothes because back then, the internet was new, and we did not have the media to put in our head that expensive equaled cool. Today, you will hear people say how weird older adults are if they wear Sketchers, that if you don’t follow up with the trends nowadays, you will be an outcast. Think about it. The media has influenced what you buy, and that expensive equals fashion which is not valid. Many people, especially teens, wear some type of name brands such as Nike and Louis Vuitton. Most people online buy these expensive products to get validation from others, not all but most. There are people out there who buy these luxury items for themselves, but most teens and kids who do believe these things do it to “flex” on social media. You might be thinking, why does this relate to how it affects a younger person’s personality? Factors like buying trending brands for social media enjoyment won’t satisfy you if your purchasing intention isn’t for pleasure.

 

Sources used for this story:

https://online.rider.edu/blog/social-media-and-eating-disorders/ 

https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/an-age-by-age-guide-to-kids-and-smartphones/#:~:text=These%20days%2C%20the%20average%20age%20when%20kids%20get,expert%20Judy%20Arnall%2C%20author%20of%20Parenting%20with%20Patience. 

https://clementineprograms.com/social-media-trigger-eating-disorder/#:~:text=%205%20Ways%20Social%20Media%20Can%20Trigger%20an,on%20adults%20who%20have%20successfully%20completed…%20More%20 

Facebook Psychology: 7 Reasons Why We Act Differently Online | HuffPost