The saturation of smartphones in our society has produced more than a few obsessions. Social media is one that is sure to stay now that corporations and news organizations utilize the various platforms to advertise and spread information. As with most advances in technology there are some dangers associated with the use of social media especially when it comes to our youth. Young people are mostly social animals and enjoy spending time communicating with friends and peers. The explosion of social media can be attributed to its popularity with the young and how easy and efficient communication can become.
As any adult can recall from their own experiences, being a teenager isn’t easy. We may have made decisions we now regret in the pursuit of acceptance or to catch the eye of a romantic interest. If only we had the wisdom we do now and we could have saved ourselves some embarrassment or worse. Teenagers these days love to take selfies and share them online. Girls, taking their cue from celebrities, often take pictures in an attempt to look sexy, focusing on a particular body part or employing the dreaded “duck lips”. Unfortunately a whole generation of youth is looking to build self-esteem on the basis of comments on our appearance. This can be very dangerous if young people only focus on superficial aspects to build their sense of self-worth and ignore the more vital and important parts to learning their place and value to society. We cannot allow our children to ignore the importance of hard work, education, kindness to others and contributing to society.
What is the big difference between spending hours on Facebook and staying up late chatting on the phone as most parents did when they were young? As I see it there are two issues parents should consider; the permanence of media shared on the internet and the inability to absolutely control who sees what. Most of us think that if we delete something from our Facebook or Twitter that it is gone and over with. The truth is once something is shared on the internet it will most likely live forever. In the days of cloud storage and screenshots, the chances are that someone somewhere will preserve a racy photo for their own purposes. The recent celebrity photo leaks prove that the only way to ensure private material doesn’t end up on the internet is to never take those photos in the first place.
Thanks to a host of pressures from entertainment and society in general, our teenagers are sexualized enough at a time when they lack the judgment and experience to always make the right decisions. An obsession with social media or selfies only feeds the idea that our self-worth should be based on what girl or guy we hooked up with rather than what kind of a person we are. Hopefully we can help build a happier generation of youth if they are not so concerned with others’ opinions of their appearance.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.