Friday 10 May 2019 8:31 am

DEBATE: In light of the latest study, have we overreacted about the effect of social media on teenagers?

In light of the latest study, have we overreacted about the effect of social media on teenagers?

Kevin Craig, chief executive and founder of communications agency PLMR, says YES.

While the discussion about the impact of social media on young people has been a hot topic at the school gates over recent years, we parents have been relying on anecdotal evidence to inform our hysteria. New studies, the latest of which calls the impact of social media on teenagers “tiny”, are very welcome and help us better understand its role in today’s society.

It’s easy to forget that this is still a relatively new phenomenon. Naturally, it will take time for us to get to grips with what is healthy and what isn’t.

To their credit, the tech giants have responded admirably to initial concerns about the negative impact of social media on society. Apple and Android users are now able to monitor their “screen time” and block apps from being used at certain times.

In many instances, social media enables young people to better interact with the outside world and learn in a way that was never previously possible. Let’s celebrate these huge benefits with cautious optimism.

Jenny Afia, privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings and member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Task Force, says NO.

Far from overreacting, most of us have been too relaxed about the impact of social media. But it has totally changed adolescence. Persuasive design strategies – the features built into platforms to make them compelling – ensure this.

Even if, as this new report claims, social media doesn’t have a negative impact on “life satisfaction” for many children, we can’t ignore the “opportunity costs” – what kids are not doing as a result of being online. Studies show that sleep is one of the most impacted areas, followed by less exercise and a decline in cognitive abilities, particularly memory.

I’m not sure that measuring children’s “life satisfaction” is the best approach anyway. My daughter would currently be happiest if I left her alone with a tub of ice cream and the remote control. But I’m more concerned about her overall development and wellbeing. Anyone who says that social media doesn’t play a role in this is living in an ivory tower.

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