Opinion: Don’t ignore social media’s harm to high school students

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The impact of social media on the mental health and self-esteem of high school students is a pressing issue that demands attention.

Young individuals like me are constantly bombarded with curated images and unrealistic standards on social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and Netflix. This has led to detrimental effects on our well-being.

When it comes to standards, we as teenagers always want to look upon role models to tell us the path of who we want to be when we grow up — whether it is a rich billionaire who owns four mansions or a person who is able to flaunt materialistic things without putting a hole in our pockets. In reality this is not real life.

With these unrealistic expectations being so high it also raises the bar on how we need to be living in order to be successful in life. In the eyes of a viewer scrolling through TikTok and a stop of a thumb looking for admiration, most teens think to themselves, “If I don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars in my bank account at all times I won’t be successful.”

This is not okay. We need to make a change. When looking back I start to wonder how we let this happen. How are we okay with letting students’ moods change with just a click of a button? I remember Oct. 10, 2023 like it was yesterday. It was in my U.S. history class at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy at about 1:30 p.m. On this day I finished my work early and decided to take a quick glance at my phone just to “See what’s going on in the world around me.” I pressed the pink and purple camera icon and started scrolling.

Right away I started seeing people with luxurious cars, handbags, clothing, and homes on the explore page. I wondered to myself, “How is this even possible? How can I be like that person?” As someone who lives on the border of Hartford and Wethersfield, how can I achieve something so big in a place so small?” I came to the conclusion that this is possible.

Throughout that day my mood changed and I was wondering how I could get out of this small town. Should I go to college in New York City? Texas? London? Dubai? How can I choose? Later that day I realized it is not me but in reality it is the society we live in. We need to normalize the middle and lower class. Although hard work does not always mean being rich, it is a step closer to being happy and stress free.

A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that excessive use of social media is linked to an increase in depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness among teenagers. This research underscores the negative psychological impact that constant exposure to social media can have on young minds.

As I kept looking into this topic I also found that a survey of high school students revealed that a significant percentage reported feeling inadequate or unhappy with their lives after comparing themselves to peers on social media. The pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards or portray a perfect life online can significantly impact teenagers’ self-esteem and mental health.

A few hours after doing this research I came upon some interviews with school counselors on YouTube that highlighted a noticeable rise in cases of cyberbullying and online harassment among students, leading to increased stress and emotional turmoil.

The anonymity provided by social media platforms can embolden individuals to engage in harmful behavior, further exacerbating the mental health challenges faced by young people.

In conclusion, the pervasive influence of social media on the mental health and self-esteem of high school students cannot be ignored. It is imperative for parents, educators, and policymakers to address this issue proactively by promoting digital literacy, encouraging open conversations about social media use, and providing resources for mental health support.

Only through a collective effort can we create a healthier online environment for the next generation. We need to make a change in our community and these are the first few steps that we can take to pursue that goal.

Saryeliz Romero is a student at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy.