Like Addict – A Blog Post about Social Media

Would it surprise you to hear that many of the top technologists in Silicon Valley see screen time as a negative thing and put severe limits on their own kids’ screen time? One of their chief concerns is the addictive nature of devices like the smartphone.

Psychologist and researcher Jean M. Twenge studies differences between generations. In an article on what characterizes today’s teens, she says she has found that screen time is connected to increased unhappiness and that people experience greater happiness pursuing interests off their screens. There’s even research showing social media to be “more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol,” as well as linking it to “increased rates of anxiety, depression, and poor sleep.”

Do kids use social media?

We’re sure you’re aware that almost everyone these days has a smartphone and that parents are giving them to young children. The average age now for kids to receive a smartphone is 10 years old. Pew Research reports that “fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online ‘almost constantly.’”

This all matters because much of teens’ screen time is spent on social media (even gamers have platforms like Discord), with 41% believing they spend too much time on it.

How does Gen Z use social media?

As you might expect, Gen Z (born from the late 1990s to late 2010s) consumes more online content than any other generation. They prefer visual over text-based content, as you can see from the fact that their current top three favorite apps are YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. One Gen Zer says, “Not only are new generations more savvy when it comes to social media, but we tend to express ourselves differently depending on which account we are using, tailoring content to fit the image we want to portray on that account.”

Even though we’ve said that social media is about connecting, Gen Z tends to use social media as a way to entertain themselves, as well as to be educated (i.e. by watching YouTube videos). The kids of Gen Z like online anonymity. They’re more likely to create multiple accounts and profiles on a platform and to direct message people instead of publicly tag them. They tend to prefer apps that allow them to conceal their activity.

Why does this matter?

We’re not saying that we should see social media as evil and never use it again. But we do think it’s important to be aware of how it’s designed and how it’s affecting us. We suggest making learning about a platform’s goals and agendas a prerequisite for your teens joining that platform.

Really, teens are quite perceptive when it comes to what they see as positive and negative, though we think they may be a bit naive in how much of an impact it has on them. We should remember that motives matter a great deal when considering if social media is good or bad for a person.

NOTE: THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM OUR PARENT’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA. FOR MORE ON WHAT’S GOOD AND BAD ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, WHAT TEENS THINK ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, WAYS IT SHAPES US, HOW TO START DISCUSSIONS WITH YOUR TEENS ABOUT IT, AND MUCH MORE, CHECK IT OUT HERE.