The Harmful Effects of Social Media on Young Minds

Aaron Abdo, Staff Writer

Today, social media runs the world. With one click or tap, and you have access to everything the internet search bar can offer. Ever since the advancement of technology and smart phones, the age that children receive their first smart device has dwindled down from years to months after being born. Today, we see the lasting effects of being exposed to social media from a young age. 

Before the normalization of social media, a child’s biggest problem might’ve been missing the new episode of their favorite cartoon or not getting seated next to their friend for a field trip. Today, children and teens are more concerned about their appearance and peer’s validation than ever before. Photoshopped models, teen influencers and the beauty industry profit off the insecurities of a vulnerable demographic.  

 Teens spend most of their day consuming media. According to “Eating Disorders and the Role of the Media” by Wendy Spettigue and Katherine A. Henderson, studies from 1973-1991 show an increase in advertisements about diets and diet products. Their research also shows that magazines targeted towards women contained 10.5 times more diet ads and commercials than magazines targeted towards men. The issue of forcing certain body standards onto impressionable young girls has been developing since the 1900’s. 

Today, Social media influencers are the new effective marketing strategy for brands and companies. Young children may stumble upon them whenever they log into Instagram, influencers usually take up the average user’s “explore page.” Like magazines targeting women to purchase anything related to the beauty industry, children are susceptible to believing that anything these influencers put out there will give these children unrealistic beauty standards and ideas.  

 The results of being exposed to social media from a young age can cause body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem, unrealistic beauty standards, and even eating disorders and body dysmorphia. 

Besides literal children comparing themselves to grown adults, children can be affected by being exposed to the inappropriate content that can be found online. In the article “Social Media Can Increase Risk of Eating Disorders and Negative Body Image” by Peter Suciun, the author says that unsupervised and unlimited access to the internet as a child can be extremely harmful for the development of children, resulting in trauma.  

Some might argue that if social media is so harmful to young people, they should just stop or limit the amount of time using it. Although that might seem like an easy solution, it may not be the best one. Yes, taking away the tool that can cause potential harm to a child is common sense. 

However, social media is what runs the world. By stripping away the internet, children cannot adapt to the evolving world around them. It is how we get our latest news and updates about what’s going on around us. It is how we get our information to educate ourselves as well. It is also an essential source of entertainment.  

Essentially, the normalization of social media influencers, allowing children to create social media accounts before the age of 13, and giving children unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet can be harmful to their development. The usage of social media can give them unrealistic standards and expectations for their body, their life and their stress and insecurities stem from the unrealistic things they see online.  

Unfortunately, stripping away the internet will not work. As a society we can only protect and prevent a child from the dangers of social media and have conversations about it.