OPINION: Increasing Usage of Social Media

Ashley Park

With the constant normalization of cell phones in the possession of younger generations, increases in social media usage are inevitable. The standard age at which children get their first phones continues to decline, which ultimately affects their presence on social media platforms and communities. These days, it is not uncommon to see users on applications such as TikTok and Instagram who display behaviors reflecting those of a twelve-year-old, most likely implying they are of such an age.

Teenagers (ideally) spend the majority of their time at school, making it inevitable that a large percentage of them are accompanied by their phones. As the 2022–2023 school year commenced, Fairfax County Public Schools established heavier rules and regulations regarding appropriate and inappropriate cell phone usage during school hours. However, the inclination to abide by these rules has diminished increasingly throughout the year, and phones continue to make appearances in classrooms. Many teachers collect phones during class periods and store them in pouches and baskets; however, even this has experienced a decline in the past several months. Equally notable, it seems that, as teachers gather phones, it is the norm for each student to turn in one, exemplifying how common it is for the majority of middle and high school students to possess a cell phone.

In attempts to meet this issue, popular social media platforms among teenagers, including Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, have an age limit of thirteen years for users upon registration. Despite these measures, countless younger individuals do not act in accordance with these rules by lying about their age or birthday. Mobile applications frequently follow a similar design that keeps viewers scrolling and clicking in an unforgiving cycle.

A hefty reason why social media is unfavored by many and seen as toxic is the extreme prevalence of unhealthy body images and ideals that are projected to impressionable minds through posts and videos. These concepts can be detrimental to developing characters, and deeper insecurities can more frequently take root in younger individuals. Younger and often more naive users are more vulnerable to lacking confidence and becoming deeply affected by not feeling as attractive or visually appealing as popular social media personalities and influencers. Starting on a social online platform early on can pose great risks to developing mentalities and self-esteem. Many could argue that social media allows them to stay connected with friends and reduces FOMO (fear of missing out), but there is no compelling reason to argue that social media is absolutely necessary for adolescents.

It is commonly conveyed that all users should keep private information to themselves. As technology and online applications continue to advance, the danger of predatory behaviors and the exploitation of ignorant and oblivious users increases. Those most vulnerable to online scams and deceptions are typically inexperienced individuals—both children and seniors. This puts a lot of ten- to twelve-year-olds on expressive platforms like Instagram and Twitter at risk, and con artists use this fact to their advantage.

It is important to maintain the protection of our younger generations. Although responsible high school students using social media is understandable, those between the ages of ten and twelve could hold off for a few years before creating accounts. The overall toxicity, addiction, and potentially dangerous risks of online networking are too harmful to overlook.