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Social Media as a 21st Century Problem

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Social Media Problem
  • Solutions to Social Media Problem
  • Conclusion

Introduction

Due to the proliferation of the internet and advanced smartphone technology, evidence indicates that teenagers and younger children are suffering from mental disorders. The leading cause of the increasingly worrying public health concern is social media, a product of internet innovation. Generation Z, according to Cornish (2017), faces severe mental issues as today's' children use the smartphone for more than the required amount of time than they do having face to face conversations. Yet, research has clarified that interactions between persons are one of the main drivers of a psychologically fit individual. Due to the rapid shift in how young people are communicating, children are unhappy, more tolerant, and completely unprepared for adulthood, as evidenced by the high suicide and attempted suicide due to lack of self-regulation (Twenge, 2018). Children today are glued to their screens, a concept that places children at risk of long-term mental related issues instead of having an active play to improve brain function (Roberts, 2019). Arguably, Generation Z has the worst mental health (feeling of loneliness, anxiety, and depression) compared to previous generations. It could be caused by the unlimited and uncontrolled use of smartphones. The solutions lie in regulating screen time and placing strict measures of using smartphones as well as integrating play and activity into children’s daily lives.

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The Social Media Problem

The worsening health of young people, particularly young children and teenagers in the Gen Z cohort, is a cause for concern in public health and families as more mental conditions are being reported worldwide due to the adverse effects of using smartphones that integrate social media. Due to social media, young people are committing suicide or attempting with others having long-term mental issues that derail their development into adulthood. In October 2019, Korean based celebrities died due to social media. For instance, Sulli, a personality born Choi Jin-Ri, committed suicide due to the vicious online attacks that led to her mental health breakdown. The celebrity's death is among one of the severe instances of how social media can negatively impact on personalities. As a result, online social media environments at the time correlate with the toxic online culture. In October 2019, a Korean based musician and actor Sulli was found dead. Born Choi Jin-Ri, the celebrity committed suicide due to the vicious online attacks that led to her mental health breakdown. The celebrity's death is among one of the severe instances of how social media can negatively impact on personalities. As a result, the online social media environments at the time have been associated with the toxic online culture (Snapes, 2019). The increased social media use, primarily due to the nature of smartphones, increase screen time, and inadequate regulation among children.

Firstly, the nature of smartphone use is that they isolate young people from face to face interactions. According to Turkle (2012), Gen Z prefers to remain at home alone as long as they can interact with peers on the smartphone. Thus, Gen Z lost the ability to communicate face to face, and to gain meaningful relationships as being connected to social media means that they are related but alone. The significance of the changing culture is that young people are bound to feel vulnerable without having meaningful interactions and, thus, the rise in mental health issues such as depression among Gen Z. A study conducted by Twenge (2016) to demonstrate the risk of using smartphones to mental health, the author reported that when smartphones become more incorporated in daily life between 2011 and 2015, children became unhappier. Compared to other cohorts' children born after 1995 are much unhappier as they spend less time with their friends performing activities together as they prefer to be alone and have more screen time. As shown in figure one below, Twenge's study demonstrates the correlation of events describing the level of happiness. The study showed that there were severe gaps in joy from smartphone use as opposed to activities without phone use. From the survey, it appears that sleep, sporting activities, and volunteer work seemed to get the best levels of sleep while, on the other hand listening to music on the phone, using the internet and social media as well as computer games resulted to the most negative levels of happiness. Twenge's research (2016) is, therefore, imperative as it directly shows the differences like activities and the implications for happiness as phones separate individuals from meaningful interactions that create happiness.

Secondly, screen time is another significant and defining problem leading to mental health issues due to the increased use of smartphones. Twenge (2016) asserts that young people have become so integrated into their smartphones and in turn, social media leading to young people checking their phones more than 28 times a day. In the long run, too much screen time makes one feel isolated and unhappy (Barr, 2019). The continuous bombardment of perfectly filtered images on social media sites such as Instagram is bound to make a child feel insecure and unhappy in comparison to their usual selves might contribute to unhappiness. The issue with screen time is that it impacts sleep because some children spend obsessively long hours some up to 12-16 hours on the internet, a problem that can cause severe mental health issues in the long-run. In a study conducted to comprehend the influence of social websites on sleep, the authors indicated that irregular sleep patterns especially at nighttime along with screen light delay bedtime circadian rhythms of rest because use of smartphones and more so social media increases cognitive arousal at bedtime (Scott & Woods, 2019). Amplified activities then increase mental health issues as young people have reported that they get feelings of disconnectedness and missing out when they are not on the phone. Therefore, mental health issues arise from smartphone use intensity and augment the long-term risk lives of young people as they venture into adulthood.

Equally important, smartphone use and the resulting consequences on mental health result from a lack of adequate self-regulation. The self-regulation theory is described as the extent to which a person can control, influence, and modify their behavior. Children are gullible and lack self-control without stringent measures. As such, children can spend all day long on activities that would result in negative reactions. Lack of self-regulation can cause severe mental health issues from viewing harmful content over protracted periods. Social media and mental health directly correlate with adverse outcomes. A quantitative study conducted by Kelly, Zilanawala, Booker, and Sacker (2018, Pg. 59) showed that:

More significant social media use related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem, and poor body image; in turn, these related to higher depressive symptom scores. Multiple potential intervening pathways were apparent, for example, more exceptional social media use related to body weight dissatisfaction (≥ 5 h 31% more likely to be dissatisfied), which in turn linked to depressive symptom scores directly (body dissatisfaction 15% higher depressive symptom scores) and indirectly via self-esteem.

Therefore, the study by Kelly et al. shows that increased use in social media can be the result of a lack of regulation, which in turn leads to more negative effects of using social media. As such, it is essential to note that due to the lack of self-regulation, children are bound to have poor mental health outcomes.

Solutions to Social Media Problem

Because children are not fully developed to understand the concept of discipline on their own, parents and guardians must protect their children instead of pervasive social media use that causes mental health issues. In the modern world, many negative factors would cause parents to limit children’s phone use. For example, pedophiles have been using the internet to prey on young children, a severe issue that may affect not only a child's mental state but also threaten lives. Twenge insisted that it is imperative to regulate children because they are prone to many harmful and unimportant activities that may make them less joyful (2018). Therefore, parents must take a central role in protecting their children by taking an active part as opposed to a passive role in their children's development. Some of the strategies that parents can employ actively include using apps that assess a child's activity in the online environment. For example, Google has a free app that allows users to integrate parental controls. The Google free parental control app is crucial because parents can monitor online activity as well as set limits for violent video games. According to Fowler (2019), parents need to ensure that children use phones without SIM cards, and so children can only access WiFi at home. For example, the Family Link App by Google helps to limit screen times and is free to download. Therefore, incorporating regulations that would restrict smartphone activity can reduce social media presence and increase a child's mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, increasing children's active life and reducing sedentary activities unless at bedtime is crucial in enhancing appropriate behaviors that can lead to happiness in children and ultimately mitigate harmful mental health disorders. According to an article by Robert (2019), limiting sedentary lifestyles for toddlers and children is an essential step in creating happy children and fully developed adults. Robert insisted that one-year-old babies must be protected from screen time as it may lead to serious mental issues during development. Instead, Robert suggests that babies should have up to thirty minutes tummy time (lying on their front) as it acts as exercise and that they should sleep for 14-17 hours to 12 to 16 hours when they are between four and eleven months old. Robert insisted that World Health Organization links adverse mental health in babies as they develop due to screen time. The objective of amplifying health outcomes by limiting sedentary lifestyles increases happiness among children. As well, Western Governors University (2019) also indicated that sedentary lives are a severe concern for children today and that reducing sedentary lives can alleviate health issues and augment mental health. As such, children must become involved in outdoor activities because they get to interact with other children and play. Some of the events that parents must become involved in to mitigate adverse mental health include children's group activities that allow them to play and become creative (Cuellar, 2015). Indeed active play is vital in the development of children into adulthood as all sport has been linked to positive health outcomes. Through play and interaction, children get to refresh their minds and ultimately encompass better emotional health and happiness. Therefore, encouraging children to have more active lives as opposed to smartphone activities can increase a child’s mental wellbeing and in turn, delight.

Conclusion

Perhaps, Generation Z has the worst mental health (feeling of loneliness, anxiety, and depression) compared to previous generations, detrimental emotional health could be caused by the unlimited and uncontrolled use of smartphones. The solution might be hiding in regulating screen time and placing strict measures of using smartphones as well as integrating play and activity into children’s daily lives. Social media integrates severe issues for Gen Z, and stringent standards must be upheld to limit the adverse health effects of internet use that occurs through smartphones. As such, parents must introduce strict regulations when using smartphones because children on their own cannot self-regulate. As well, it is imperative to increase child physical activity as it improves brain activity. Therefore, parents must actively compel children from screen time and instead focus on creating meaningful positive relationships that can augment the quality of life as they grow into adulthood.

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