Teenagers today live their lives online as much as offline.
Without question, the internet can be a toxic place for us as young people. But the solution for issues faced online isn’t just a matter of withdrawing access to them.
Without doubt, the internet is a fantastic resource for young people looking for information, advice and even the chance to socialise. But nowadays for a significant figure it also puts us subject to potentially harmful and conflicting content. Many sites now offer support for teenagers and other young people who have witnessed disgusting content on ‘pro’ sites regarding anorexia or bulimia, self harm and even suicide.
Worryingly, a number of young people have experienced one or more of these issues. I believe that most of the time it’s because they’ve felt down and worthless. But what’s worse is there has been a concerning trend for us using social media to show off just about anything.
Photo sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat provide a place where we can post images and then have others view them and comment, which can lead to posts encouraging worthlessness and therefore resulting in all sorts of harmful acts made towards ourselves.
For most people seeing images of extremes can shock them, but for young people it can turn into competitive behaviour. We look at images and think ‘I want to look like that’ and this then creates a ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ picture in our minds. No matter how far from reality that picture is, we’ll do anything to try and look similar.
To me this is disturbing.
The temptation for worried parents could be to withdraw access to the internet altogether. However, in the modern world that we live in, this could be seen as a punishment more than anything. All the time spent online today is striking, and removing access could leave many young people feeling isolated from their friends.
In fact, this approach could have the opposite effect, by discouraging teenagers from talking about things that they’ve seen online to their parents.
Teens just need to realise that individuality isn’t a bad thing.
By KIERA DIMENT, aged 15