Forum Warns Of Social Media Woes For Teens
By VERONICA LEWIN
Social media has evolved as a way to share your lives with friends and family around the world. Though its benefits are vast, it has changed the way people interact with each other. Some organizations are beginning to take a look at the effect social media has on adolescents.
|Social media sites like Twitter can be a source of cyber bullying for teens.
Photo by Veronica Lewin.
The Queens Forum hosted a discussion called “The Impact of Social Media on Teen Health” at LaGaurdia Community College on May 8. A panel of six people who have an interest in the well being of teenagers weighed in on the role technology has played in the way young people grow up today.
Tali Horowitz, New York City education program manager of Common Sense Media, was the keynote speaker at last week’s event. She said that today’s youth are spending an average of 7.5 hours a day with technology. While teenagers have usually been self-absorbed, social media has provided today’s teens with numerous platforms to express themselves.
The forum mainly focused on cyber bullying. While bullying has always been a problem in schools, its reach has extended over the past 20 years. In the past, students were safe from bullying outside of the school’s walls. Ten years ago, AOL Instant Messenger followed kids from the classroom to their home computers. Now, social media platforms and smart phones make it difficult for a child being bullied to escape torment.
“You may or may not know who the cyber bully is, and even if you do know who the cyber bully is, you’re not sure how many other people are seeing what’s going on and that could really exacerbate the feelings of aloneness,” Horowitz said.
According to the panel, being a victim of cyber bullying can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders or even suicide.
The panel said another issue with social media websites is the ability to remain anonymous. Students today tend to say things online that they would not say to a peer face to face. Because of the ability to post comments under an alias, it could be more difficult to track who is doing the bullying.
“Teenagers, on the one hand, seem to enjoy the fact that everybody can see what they’re doing but, on the other hand, don’t appreciate the consequences of everybody seeing what their doing,” said Kateri Gasper, senior assistant district attorney for the Queens DA’s Office. She often visits schools and organizations to speak with youth about the consequences of their actions before they engage in inappropriate behavior.
One of the effects of social media is the instant gratification it allows. When someone posts on Facebook, they often receive feedback instantly. In recent years, young people have taken advantage of this to know where they stand with their peers.
According to Horowitz, teenage girls have been posting photos and videos of themselves on YouTube and Facebook and asking people to rate their appearance. While comments can be positive, some users take the opportunity to be as frank as possible. One user told a girl she should commit suicide because of her looks.
According to Maggie Flaherty, communications manager at the National Eating Disorder Association, recent studies have shown that young women who spend more time on social media sites are more apt to develop eating disorders.
A new social media site called Pinterest allows users to post photos of their interests. People soon began posting photos of thin women they aspire to look like, also known as “thinspiration.” After a push from the National Eating Disorders Association, Pinterest now warns users who search for “thinspiration” that eating disorders are not lifestyle choices and refers them to a national hotline. Still, that has not stopped young people from posting these photos.
To curb the negative impacts of social media, Horowitz recommends being a role model for young people and teaching media literacy at a young age.
Reach Reporter Veronica Lewin at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123 or email@example.com.