Social Media Safety
Awareness and keeping yourself safe while online.
Written by Kayla Walsh and Anna Persson
Group Members: Kayla Walsh, Anna Persson, Caroline Ye, Isabella Siu and Julianne Gilchrist
Freshman Health Class Ms.Bousquet
In this day and age, phones are an essential part of nearly all teenagers' lives, and social media is just as important. Apps and websites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and more are all everyday aspects of many teenagers’ lives. However, social media can be a blessing and a curse, and social media is oftentimes harmful to teenagers’ mental health.
When we were assigned our group project on the topic of social media, we knew there were many different directions we could take our project. Social media is such an integral part of most teenager’s lives, whether they are scrolling through Instagram or posting a Tik Tok for their friends. Although social media can bring many positives into a teenagers life, it is also important to highlight some of the negative effects social media can bring to a teenagers personal life and self image.
Social media plays a large role in a teenager’s self perception, which can impact the way they view both themselves and other people. Dr. Streed, a physician's representative for the AMA Advisory, states that they “are presenting their best selves, their best lives or best versions of their lives and that constant comparison when people are scrolling is what is believed to lead to harm.” This quote shows that other people can play an important role in how you view yourself. When you are content comparing yourself to the best versions of other people, it can get to your head and lead to negative outcomes for yourself. This is why you must be mindful of what other people post and how you perceive it.
Social media can easily be used for harm, whether it’s from brands trying to profit off of insecurities, or teenagers bullying others online. Officer Cotard is a School Resource Officer at Canton High School, and has dealt with online hate and cyberbullying before. We interviewed him and asked if he has seen teenagers' health and body image be impacted by social media, and he responded with “Absolutely!!! Teens are now very influenced by social media and what they see their peers doing. Some impacts are harmless and fun. Other social media challenges can be very dangerous, harmful, and illegal which can land you in a lot of trouble.” As Officer Cotard said, teenagers are easily influenced by social media and following others on social media can turn from harmless to dangerous very quickly. We also asked Officer Cotard about whether or not he thought social media had more positive or negative effects, and he said, “I actually think social media does a lot of good and I think when creators of these platforms made these applications their intentions were good. Unfortunately there will always be people who use social media with different intent and a lot of bad can come out of that.” With people, and especially with teenagers, bad intentions towards others can occur very easily. Social media gives people power that they otherwise would not have and can really make someone feel targeted or isolated from others. In cases of cyberbullying peers, social media can be weaponized to hurt other people. So while social media can be used to spread positivity, it can also be used to harm other people.
Navigating social media can be overwhelming when you are trying to not damage yourself and others. However, there are ways you can help protect yourself from the dangers and toxicity of social media. For starters, when scrolling through your Instagram or Tik Tok, be conscious of how people want to be seen on social media. Like previously stated in the article, make sure to be mindful of how social media is oftentimes fake and/or edited. Taking care of yourself is the number one concern and other people’s appearances and lives should not affect that. To help, we suggest you intentionally avoid posts that might be damaging to yourself. Another topic discussed in this article was how to use social media properly, taught by one of our resources, Officer Cotard. During the interview, he discussed his “rules of thumb” when posting on social media. Officer Cotard states, “Think before you send - Understand that once you hit send/post etc that it is set in stone and DOES NOT go away. Ask yourself these questions: 1. If I send/post this, Can I get in trouble for it? If the answer is Yes DON'T SEND IT! 2. If I send/post this would it be something that my parents, guardians, school, work, and or the police want to see? If the answer is no, DON'T SEND IT!” These rules can be helpful for when teenagers have the decision to post on social media. Another question we asked Officer Cotard is how can teenagers limit how they are affected by what they see online? Some strategies he suggested was, “the less you use it, the less you can be affected; filter the comments you’re watching, sending, posting, viewing, etc and seek help from a trusted adult if something or someone is bothering you online to help you navigate you through all of your concerns.” If you feel like social media is negatively affecting you consistently everyday, these solutions might help you feel at ease when you navigate yourself and others through social media.
All in all, social media can be beneficial, but can also be used to harm you. Teenagers are easily influenced and are especially vulnerable to body insecurity and peer pressure, which sometimes makes social media dangerous to navigate. Teens should be aware of how they are affected by social media, and should know how to keep themselves safe from other people on it.