Social Media: Rhetoric and Reality
Millions of teenagers across the United States access the internet and social media platforms daily. According to Pew Research, 97 percent of teenagers use the Internet daily, with 46 percent saying they use it almost constantly. Both the internet and social media have become part of modern adolescence in a way that was not true for previous generations.
For most, these visits will be harmless—to catch up on the latest news, connect with friends and family, conduct research for a school project, or tweet
their latest thoughts or feelings. But, unfortunately, while the vast majority will have a positive experience on social media, others will interact with cyber bullies, cyber criminals and, potentially, child predators. Such dangers have led lawmakers across the political spectrum and at every level to propose legislation designed to keep teens safe online, particularly when using social media platforms.
Given the prominence of social media in daily life, fears have been raised about its effects on teens’ mental health. Experts have raised concerns about alleged links between social media and “depression, anxiety, and loneliness.” These fears came to a head in 2021 when, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and after the tumultuous 2020 presidential election, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 42 percent “of high school students felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities” and 29 percent “of high school students experienced poor mental health.”