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  • Writer's pictureRORY BRADLEY '22

Social Media's Impact on Teens During the Pandemic

Have you found yourself to be deeply involved with social media within the past eight months of the COVID-19 quarantine? If the answer is “yes,” so have many other students attending SUA! As quarantine continues to control our lives within and outside of school, social media helps us connect with friends and family, and educate ourselves on current events, but has this taken a toll on how we are used to interacting with fellow students and friends?

How often do we find ourselves using social media?

As the Coronavirus quarantine progresses, so does the average teen’s addiction to their phone. TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat are few of many platforms used by teens on a daily basis. According to the West Virginia Education Association, the average teenager, ages 13-18, spends about nine hours’ worth of screen time each day. To many it may seem like a lot, but once the scrolling starts, it seems to never stop.

According to our own Saint Ursula Academy student body, about 44% of 171 students used social media an average of four hours a day before the virus hit. As quarantine progressed, 43% of students found themselves using social media over seven hours a day.

The most common app used among students is currently TikTok. This popular video sharing social media platform created in 2016 has taken control over the minds of many teens and their daily lives. TikTok is aimed at teens ages 15+, to share comedy, dances, challenges, and many more time consuming, short videos to keep one entertained. This social media platform blew up over quarantine, keeping kids of all ages entertained attempting to learn the newest dance trends to follow along with what was popular at that time. Trends like the Renegade and Say So dances, parents imitating their children, what food you would order at a gas station, impersonations, and dressing up as an E-girl are ones easy enough for any teen to participate in and feel included within the internet community.

Other apps such as Instagram and Snapchat are popular amongst students to reach fellow friends, family, and peers from school. Not only is social media used to post highlights of our lives, share a laugh with our friends, and keep up with what’s trending, our schools have adapted to the use of social media as well.

What are the positives and negatives to the increase of social media use?

Before quarantine, social media platforms have been used to post lighthearted and fun pictures that may not have affected one's life in a serious way. As quarantine continued, apps such as Instagram helped and continues to help educate teens on serious and life affecting issues one may miss by not watching the news or keeping up with current events. Through social media, we have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, protests, political education, and acknowledging the conservation of our earth. Real world topics that one may not be able to learn about as they are not in school, can be found online when stuck inside. Social media has had a positive impact on teens and students all around the world, helping to educate others of similar age on what one may be going through behind a phone screen.

Although there are many positive effects of social media on teens during this pandemic, many students have found themselves negatively impacted with how social media and their phones have influenced school work and their focus on important aspects of life.

Sixty-four percent of students expressed their focus and attention span have significantly shortened due to extreme amounts of screen time and use of social media. Students went from a distance learning break, to summer, then back to a hybrid of in person and virtual learning within the last eight months. Students have found themselves wrapped up in what’s on social media, and 88% of these students have found their screen time to increase because of quarantine and our time away from friends. This has caused a lack of interest within school and home life, being pulled away from our normal social routine. One minute videos, short text messages, and pictures have affected the way we focus in our almost two hour daily classes.

How does the student body feel about the use of social media?

As quarantine progresses, our social communication is lessening. We spend less time seeing our friends in person, and more time seeing and chatting with them over a phone. Students have stated how difficult it can be to be consumed within social media, constantly comparing one life to another. Every person is made uniquely and all have more to offer than our grades, which can be difficult to see as we spend hours on hours looking at an artificial life we all wish to be living.

Other students have brought up the tension social media causes between political and social beliefs. As our 2020 election recently passed, students are taking charge and posting political-related posts in attempts to educate their peers, which consequently opens a new world for arguments between students. Views on the Coronavirus have also sparked a heated debate on what is right and what is wrong in our daily lives, aiming to bring down cases and possibly end quarantine. Who's right and who’s wrong? This is something we may never know, but as we continue to learn, it is important to look at both sides and trustworthy news sources!

One of the most common statements said amongst students is the lack of our time outdoors. Not only are we limited to what we can do outside with COVID restrictions, social media keeps us amused inside for hours on end. Sports seasons and games are increasingly getting cancelled, or have a limit to viewers and spectators. We now tend to find ourselves unmotivated to take the initiative to go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. Teens rely on social media to keep their lives interesting, vicariously living the lives of others we may see on TikTok or Instagram, from the comfort of our own beds. Social media has become a distractor from the outside world, acting as a protector to the harsh realities we are currently facing.

In the end, our phones have positive and negative aspects, and certain days one could outweigh the other. Self education and connecting with friends is one of the best things social media can give us right now, but what are ways you can use it to better your life during the pandemic?

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