We asked online readers to react to a set of Oct. 10 opinion pieces on teens and the power of social media. Here is an edited sample of what they had to say:
The highly curated online life is not healthy
When my children were young teens, I used Snapchat to have a window into their online lives (I have never used any other social media, but they have used Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat since they were about 13 or 14). I became really concerned when I saw that getting a high number of likes on a post became outsized affirmation for them. Nothing about what they posted included real-life disappointment and challenges. It’s highly curated “look at how fun my life is!”
A thousand friends or followers? This is not real, and it is dangerous to everyone’s psyches: impressionable young people and mature adults alike. I don’t have FOMO, and I feel secure and trusting in my small friend group. They know about what’s going on with me because I talk to them and see them in order to share the good, bad, and ugly. Showing vulnerability deepens my connections with my friends.
I fear for my children’s long-term happiness. Deep, meaningful connections are life-sustaining, and I’m not sure they have them. They’ve been hurt by ghosting. I’m sure they have ghosted friends/followers too, so they probably have hurt others.
I think the bad outweighs the good when it comes to social media. Does that make me a Luddite? Maybe in this sense.
Tech whizzes have sucked us into a virtual world
Smartphones are not just communication devices. They are the necessary link between a person and “the hive.” Most of us have ourselves experienced impulsive, compulsive, and obsessive thinking. Imagine that going on in your child’s developing brain.
The geniuses of social media, people like Mark Zuckerberg, are working full time to suck everyone in to an existence that involves the substitution of a virtual-reality world, the “metaverse,” for the real world — a VR world with nonstop commercialism, nonstop data gathering, and nonstop insanity.
Why go outdoors? Why go to a show? Why go on a date? Why do any “real” thing when you can have the same experience on the Internet, except without the unpleasantness of dirt, human interaction, or even bothering to get dressed?
Parents, take away your kids’ smartphones before it’s too late.
We must all do more to make the Internet a safer place for kids
My experience with social media has been negative in more ways than positive. Although I have connected with friends via Facebook and Instagram, these media can become addictive and a trigger for anxiety and other mental health issues. I’d rather use it just to inform myself, because in this connected world you cannot keep yourself updated without social media.
I totally agree that social media should be learned by us parents. That way we could have productive and instructive conversations with our children on how to use them safely and even share our experiences. It is imperative that our kids are aware of the power of different platforms — for good and for bad.
It’s a problem that laws to protect children from social media are so outdated. There must be something done to demand that tech companies be more responsible and make the Internet a safer place for our kids.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic