Unveiling the Dark Side of Social Media: The Growing Concerns and Calls for Stronger Internet Safety Regulations

Syracuse, NY – Social media use among children and teenagers has become a prevalent issue, with harmful effects on mental health and overall well-being. As members of Gen Z, we have grown up with social media as a significant part of our lives. While we may have enjoyed a childhood free from online platforms, our tween and teenage years were dominated by social media. This shift has had negative impacts on our generation, as evidenced by increased rates of depression and anxiety among teens.

When we were in middle school, social media became an essential aspect of our daily routine. Whether it was scrolling through Tumblr, Vine, or Instagram, we were constantly exposed to a curated world of filtered images and posts promoting unrealistic standards of beauty. At the age of 12, we found ourselves comparing our bodies and lives to what we saw online, which often led to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. This unhealthy comparison culture also contributed to middle school bullying, as those who didn’t conform to societal ideals became targets.

Recognizing the detrimental effects of social media, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) last month. COPPA, implemented in 1998, restricts websites and social media platforms from collecting personal data from children under the age of 13. However, the law has not been updated to account for the significant advancements in social media over the past two decades.

The FTC’s proposed revisions aim to improve online safety for children by enforcing stricter measures on websites and social media platforms. This includes limiting the collection of personal data and reducing exposure to branded advertisements endorsed by influencers, companies, or the platforms themselves. The need for these changes was emphasized when 33 state attorneys filed a lawsuit against Meta, accusing the company of violating COPPA through an ineffective age-checking system and unauthorized collection of personal data from underage users.

Despite social media platforms setting age restrictions, research shows that many children between the ages of 8 and 12 are using social media, with one-third of them lying about their age to gain access. The lack of parental consent and awareness exposes children to potentially harmful content without adequate protection. The negative consequences of excessive social media use at a young age are well-documented, with studies linking it to depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and substance abuse.

As young adults who have personally experienced the negative impacts of social media, we have a unique perspective and responsibility to advocate for a safer internet for today’s youth. The proposed revisions by the FTC and ongoing lawsuits against social media platforms are steps in the right direction but more needs to be done. It is crucial for society as a whole to recognize the risks posed by social media and actively support efforts to ensure the well-being of young internet users.

In conclusion, the rise of social media has brought about real and lasting consequences for children and teenagers. It is imperative that internet safety regulations evolve to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of social media. As members of Gen Z, we understand the dangers and challenges associated with online platforms, and we must use our knowledge and experiences to advocate for a safer digital environment for future generations.