Never mind ‘digital natives’ – today’s under-20s are social media natives. They have barely known a life before Facebook.
How are they dealing with the unique challenges of a life online?
I’ve spent the last month working on #LikeMinded, a special series about social media and its impact on our mental health. It’s forced me to question whether I (now at 23 years old) really was psychologically robust enough to confront the onslaught of picture sharing and constant messaging that arrived in my early teens. For some children, it’s arriving even earlier; it’s thought that at least 7.5 million users in the US are under the age of 13, despite having to be aged 13 or over to hold an account.
For this group, social media has shaped their entire lives. But that’s also why they’re the ones who perhaps have the most realistic concerns over whether it’s a positive force in their lives.
Teens are quick to voice concerns over platforms when asked, as shown in a 2017 survey where almost 1,500 teens said Instagram was the worst platform for their mental health. So who is making sure a life online is a happy and healthy one?
Help from schools and governments
Young people might seem more connected to their peers, with thousands of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, but social media hasn’t come without its downsides.
Katy Mackenzie is a 19-year-old blogger and student from Derby who writes about beauty, lifestyle and mental health, for whom social media “was key to getting my posts shared and out there to the world.”
Like most young people, there weren’t any school lessons in how to use social media – just some safety basics that she was already aware of. “I think companies need to realise when people call out for help.”