GROWING PAINS: Social media may ‘filter’ reality for teens and lower self confidence

Special Reports

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Social media platforms have emerged and advanced over the past decade. Although many of the current youth have grown up with social media being a primary channel for their interactions, the platforms may still challenge reality in the way the teens take in the content.

A survey done by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2018 showed that 90% of teens 13-17 had used social media and that on average, teens are online for nine hours or more a day, not including their homework time.

Statistics show that youth who are on social media for three or more hours a day have a 50% higher chance of depression, according to Rebekah Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor.

Some teenagers said that the main social media apps they use are TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

TikTok has been in the spotlight a few times this year because of school-based challenges created by teens that encouraged students to steal school property and even go as far as assaulting a teacher.

“We do not want our children with a criminal record over a silly TikTok challenge,” said Cynthia Robinson, a school communications officer.

Facebook also faced some scrutiny this year once a whistleblower warned congress about the dangers of the company’s platforms. 

“Facebook’s products harm children… stoke division and weaken our democracy,” said Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower.

Through the lens

Seeing posts from users on social media who seem to be perfect can cause teens to view themselves as less.

Hannah Everett, Mount Enterprise High School student, said, “It really kind of negatively brings your self-confidence down and doesn’t really help you feel confident about your real look, your natural look.”

A few students told KETK that the regular use of filters and editing make them feel insecure about their own features.

“It’s bad. They compare themselves to these social media influencers who have professional camera crews who are wealthy, who are not middle class East Texas kids.”

Rebekah walker, Licensed Professional counselor

Pressure to create

With the trend of people becoming social media famous, the pressure to create content and become an overnight influencer has reached today’s teens.

“I just think… ‘How did they do that? How did they become popular so quickly?’ and at the age we’re at,” said Everett. “They get money from it and get rich from it at such an early age, and I’m just like, I’m still in high school…and I’m still trying to figure out college.”

Everett said that social media can make teens feel like they’re supposed to be doing more, doing better and even be famous when teens are actually already doing good.

Cyberbullying

Social media’s threats to adolescents’ mental health does not always come from strangers. 

Kahler Burkler, Mount Enterprise High School student, said that he was bullied by classmates when he told them it was his dream to play professional sports.

“People were coming in and kind of like, ‘dude, you’re a worthless piece of crap and you’re not going to make it,’” said Burkley. “That took a toll on me. And so eventually I was like, I can’t take this, so I pressed the delete button.”

Although overindulging in social media can be a problem, some teens are aware of this being an issue and have their own takes on the situation.

For teens that are not able to just delete the social media apps, Walker recommends that parents get to know the types of interactions their teens may be having on social media.

How parents can help

“I think the biggest issue with teenagers is, parents are not involved enough,” said Walker.

Walker said that we can still enjoy social media, but it is important to know that what we see on social media has been altered, that it’s not reality and that everyone has a behind the scenes, we’re just not seeing it.

Role modeling for your teens and having conversations with them about social media could help, according to Walker.

“If I’m on social media all evening long, sitting on the couch, scrolling through Facebook, what am I teaching my child?” said Walker.

Walker said that having conversations with your teens about what they’re seeing on social media and being involved is one of the biggest factors to help protect your teens.

“It’s okay to be a little nosy. They may not like it, but they’ll appreciate it later.”

Tiffenii Mumphrey, Carlisle ISD teacher

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