Is social media toxic for teenagers?

Writing in The Atlantic, psychologist Jean Twenge calls children born between 1995 and 2012 the iGen – they have grown up with a smartphone in their hands and this has changed every aspect of their lives: they do much less face to face socialising that previous generations: the number of teenagers who see their friends frequently has dropped by more than 40% since 2000. In 2015 only 56% of 17 year olds went on a date, compared to 85% of generation Xers. Modern teenagers are slower to learn to drive, earn money and spend more time in the parental home.

Instead of having fun and becoming independent, they are on their phone, in the room, alone and often distressed.

Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, argues that there is clear evidence that social media provides none of the benefits of real human contact, but has serious consequences. Studies in the US show that teens who spend more than three hours a day online are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. The suicide rate among girls aged 12-14 -some of the heaviest users of social media has trebled in a decade.

However, this could all be something of a moral panic: and maybe the ‘hysteria’ over the ‘harms social media are doing to our teens’ is more a reflection of the concerns of the older generation, and their inability to keep up with recent technological changes.  

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