The Negative Impacts of Social Media and Technology on Children and Young Adults


Technology and cell phone use are harming today’s youth.

Gracia Renkewitz, Contributing Writer

Do you want your children to grow up isolated, desensitized, and disconnected from family? That is what will happen if people today keep normalizing cell phone use every minute of every day. 

The use of cell phones on a daily basis isn’t the problem. Cell phones have revolutionized communication, making it easier to stay in touch with long-distance friends or family who live in another state. The issue with cell phones today is that one app after the next is making people, specifically young kids and young adults, more attached to their phone and who’s on the phone at the time rather than their family who’s around them in person. Most of the youth are addicted to their cellphones and/or social media on the phone, and this not only takes a huge mental toll but a physical toll as well. 

For one, the mental toll has had significant impacts on young people today, and it’s the overuse of technology that is the issue. A 2017 study in young adults aged 19–32 years found that people with higher social media use were more than three times as likely to feel socially isolated than those who did not use social media as often. This is because at this point young people have become so attached to their phone that it is the only thing that gives them happiness, the only thing that they even feel they can connect with. This is a serious issue when in fact the person feeling isolated has the whole world to open up to and try to find something they can connect with or open up to their family and connect with them, instead they have connected to the people on their phones, the virtual people, and this gives them more excitement than the real things in their life at the moment. The authors of a 2016 systematic review discussed the link between social networks and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Mental health entangles into this mess as well. Technology is one thing but social media is another. Young adults are prone to social media at such a young age, say if they are given a phone at a young age, or maybe an iPad to play games to distract them, whatever it is it puts their focus on the wrong way the unreal virtual world and not the real world. Social media gets kids hooked because they like to be able to get followers and follow the people they know, post pictures, etc. But let’s say a person doesn’t get the followers they want, or the likes they want, or they start comparing themselves to others they see on social media who they think are better than them (because social media has made young people think everything’s a contest these days). What happens then, when this is the only thing that they feel connected to? It shuts them down and now we have a depressed child or young adult who feels like the world is crashing down on them all because of a stupid social meida app. Do you see the issue? Well that’s not all it affects. Children who obsessively start to use technology and have social media accounts tend to have low academic performance, low creativity, delays in language development, and of course addiction to these technologies. The authors of 2015 research found that technology appears to negatively affect the overall health of children and teenagers of all ages. Researchers noted the importance of parents and caregivers controlling screen time in all children. This is true and can be seen in every high school at least on a Long Island. Students are so absorbed in this burial social media idea that learning new material will always come as a bother to them. Instead of opening up their eyes and brains they continue to consistently care about what is going on with their friends and also people they aren’t friends with, in their virtual world. On a neurological level, technology addiction operates similarly to chemical addictions, in that expectation followed by reward leads the brain to release dopamine and other feel-good chemicals. This reward might be winning a level of a video game, or getting “likes” on a picture. Over time, a person begins to crave this dopamine release and often requires increasing stimulus to get the same effect. This craving to feel acceptance from the people through the phone, to feel the need to follow these “guidelines” on social media accounts is nothing but toxic and causes children and young adults to consistently compare themselves to others, which then makes them want to change essentially lowering their self esteem. 

Mental health is not the only thing being affected here. Physical health is as well, such as higher BMI, physical inactivity and obesity, poor sleep quality. Symptoms of digital eye strain can include blurred vision and dry eyes. Eyestrain may also lead to pains in other areas of the body, such as the head, neck, or shoulders. The schooling situation students are in now most definitely makes the technology dilemma an even greater concern. Most teens are already addicted to their phone or to a video game or both! Hours and hours of screen time, always looking down at the screen, or sitting around for hours playing video games on a daily basis can cause the heath issues above; eye strain, neck shoulder or back pain, and/or increase in body weight but that usually happens with adults there’s no correlation of this to children or teens. Sleep is also badly affected when it comes to teenagers. As young children parents normally have (at least should have) strict times for bed time or electronic use, but as a teen you have your own phone at this point, your video games in your room, and you parents have become more lenient with the times. So, that leaves you with the decision and many teenagers will not think of how blue light screens are affecting their sleep. So many teenagers stay up for hours playing video games or stuck with their face in their phone right before they go to sleep and that is taking major toll on their health. This not only makes it harder for you to get the rest you need but effects the next day ahead. Authors of a 2014 study found that this blue light is enough to disturb the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This disturbance could make it harder to fall asleep or lead to a person feeling less alert the next day. Feeling less alert will make a change in attitude and willingness to learn or be active in conversation. If this continues for years, through high school and so forth, how do you think these students’ lives will play out in the real world, when they need to learn stuff on their own?

You may think it’s dramatic but technology and social media is so addictive it has the power to break up families. This breaking up may not even be noticed from an outside perspective. You ever go out to eat and see a family sitting together and they are all on their phones. You ever go out to lunch and see a group of friends together, but once again they are all sitting on their phones. Do you ever go out with your family or friends and find yourself and the others you are with all on their phones? This is in fact why family can be broken up slowly but surely due to a stupid device. The young generation and even parents of those children have been sucked into the technological world we live in today. This makes it hard for family members to make connections with each other, harder to build a bond, even the small task of having a decent conversation. In children social and emotional issues arise. For example social incompatibility and anxiety form since kids or teens are always focused on what’s going on in the phone instead of what’s going on around them. Aggressive behaviors can follow such as yelling or getting angry over maybe a simple question being asked to the teen/child because they were interrupted or taken away from what was on the screen they were looking at or maybe get mad when they are asked to do a chore because all they want to do is play that video game or go snapchat their friend who might in fact not even be snapping back. In addition emotional development which is the detachment from family or friends because the virtual world is what they would rather connect with. And last but not least lack of attention, which yes can happen with adults too but when children are exposed to technology at a young age they will have a harder time gaining attention for things. The attention not only drifts from school activities, but from family, friends and pretty much from anything that causes them to learn something new and open their eyes. Am I being intense? No. It’s really scary that even just one person can’t answer the simple question as to where the sun rises and sets.

However, it is easy to become absorbed in such a thing because it is in fact a chemical feeling of happiness when you get those likes and comments or win that game you play. Parenting is only the issue to a certain point. Parents these days tend to put their child in front of an iPad, or a phone, or computer. This issue right here will make children growing up think its ok to then grab a piece of technology to entertain themselves however when you get tho the age where you begin to think for yourself and have your own opinion you must open up your eyes and understand that while your sitting on your phone scrolling through instagram, facebook, twitter etc., for no reason but of boredom, or sitting alone or even with people in your room playing a video game you are wasting your time and not taking advantage of what is around them. Technology has its advantages of course! It is so much easier to stay in touch with family and friends, easier to learn about new things by just searching it up on the internet, easier to keep track of things, etc. The reason for this addiction being chemical or that you were exposed to social media/games and such at a young age can not be an excuse forever, the world doesn’t need social media or video games whatsoever. And being that social media and technology in general have helped in so many ways does not overpower the fact of the major issues it has brought children and young adults. The problem comes in when it is overused and gets in the way of real life. 

There are solutions. For one society needs to stop normalizing obsessive cell phone use. It’s not ok to sit with your family, to sit with a group of your friends, and consistently sit on your phone. Parents who think it’s a solution to consistently put their children in front of a screen to entertain them when they are behaving poorly or are bored must stop. If a parent sees a child on their phone too much and has a change in mood, take the phone away. Stop allowing kids as young as 6 years. If you see your friends or family absorbed in their phone on social media constantly, make a comment and explain to them the unhealthy effects. The first step is acknowledging that you are too focused on your social media apps and video games, then you can progress from there. As long as you want to help yourself you will get better, like any addiction.  This starts at the source, the era we are in is a very technical one and that’s okay but limitations must be met in order to make sure virtual life does not overpower real life.  

Overall the major issue is that many teens today are unattached from their families, from what’s going on in the world, and from themselves. Instead of learning to be leaders or be independent many are just followers, following one trend after the next. Learn to take the time and get to know new people, expose yourself to new things, venture out of your little virtual bubble and open your eyes to what’s around you.