In America, we have placed restrictions on certain behaviors to protect teenagers from the harmful side effects of participating in potentially dangerous activities.
You can’t buy cigarettes or lottery tickets until you’re 18. You can’t legally purchase alcohol until you’re 21.
On many social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, you must be 13 or older to open an account. On YouTube, you must be 18.
As a society, we understand that teenagers need to be more mature to decide if they will use cigarettes or alcohol because we want to make sure their brains are developed enough to comprehend the potential pitfalls of using these substances.
However, we allow children as young as 13 to be able to sign up for social media that contains not only a lot of adult content they could accidentally browse, but recent studies are starting to show possible links to mental health issues arising from social media use including increases in anxiety and depression among young users. Not to mention the peer pressure that is occurring from using these platforms.
A sixteen-year-old interviewed by Deseret News stated she watched her friend develop an eating disorder after feeling fat because of fitness accounts on Instagram that contained photos of beautiful, skinny, toned bodies. While a young girl developing an eating disorder is nothing to celebrate, there is some good news concerning this subject.
It seems that more teens are starting to notice the negatives of social media. In a recent Pew Research Center study, 24 percent of teens said they view social media as mostly negative.
In a recent week-long, “social media fast” encouraged by the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS teens that participated reported feeling happier not using social networks for a week.
As with other activities in life, social media can be used for a lot of good things, but as discussed, it can also cause real harmful effects to its users, especially teens.
To help protect children from the potentially harmful effects of social media use, maybe it’s time that an older minimum age sign up restriction is placed on these platforms. If limiting use by younger teens isn’t an option, social networks should at least offer more parental controls on their sites.
Parents wouldn’t let their kids smoke a six pack of Camels at 13. Maybe it’s time to not let them log on to social media for the toxic side effects that come from its use.
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