Don’t You Think I Was Too Young?

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Words: Angelita Treanor McCann (she/her)

My childhood was ruined the moment technology was introduced into my life. 

I am fuelled by the compelling urge to constantly check and respond to each notification which parades my screen. My hands are glued to my phone, my eyes are glued to the blue light, and my brain feels the incessant need to remind me that ‘I am not good enough and never will be good enough,’ in response to the carefully curated photos that penetrate my feed. I cannot tear my eyes away from a screen which validates my looks, opinions, and, ultimately, my existence.  

This physiological torment, however, is not mainly experienced by adults but by children.

To download social media, one must be 13 years of age. At age 13, you can access harmful content, be exposed to unrealistic and damaging body standards and communicate with strangers online who may wish to harm you both emotionally and physically. Despite this questionably low age guideline for social media uptake, the BBC recently identified that 1 in 3 children lie about their age to access adult content on social media. This horrifying reality puts children at risk of viewing content purposefully created for an older audience’s consumption. 

A child’s access to adult content can push them into the hands of predators. This is evidenced by The NSPCC, which highlighted that grooming crimes increased by 70% between 2018 and 2021 due to more significant social media usage. The dramatic rise in grooming incidents proves that parents may be able to protect their children on the street from misfortune; however, they cannot shelter them from the world of harm that secretly hides behind their child’s phone screen. 

While we want to educate today’s youth with the increased wisdom and knowledge that the online world brings, excessive technology has resulted in attention spans lasting only 8 seconds. This reduced attention span translates into an adolescent’s inability to remain present in a prolonged conversation without calculating how many TikTok videos they could have watched in that time. For the record, they could have watched at least ten TikToks by this point in the article.

The life of an adolescent is consumed by technology, severely limiting their engagement with the real world. Sky News identified that this reduction in attention span is a result of social media’s addictive nature, which has been compared with a nicotine or alcohol dependency. Social media has resulted in the concept of ‘play’ being associated with online games, and the idea of ‘fun’ is now intrinsically linked to social media gratification. 

The extent of technology’s potential to distract was identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which calculated that 237 teenage driver deaths occurred in 2018 due to adolescents driving while on their phones. This horrific number shows that technology’s damaging effects are not merely a psychological phenomenon but provide a real threat to the younger generation’s prolonged existence.  

Technology is also a direct attribute to the death of dreams and the self-esteem of the younger generation. Social media is a portal which modifies and exemplifies physical appearances and attributed successes to the detriment of the individual viewing it. Psychologist Leon Festinger proposed the Theory of Social Comparison in 1954, identifying humans’ innate drive to evaluate and compare themselves against others. This theory has only increased in credibility with the rise of social media. Cyberspace’s artificiality forces us to compare ourselves to carefully curated images. This excessive online comparison leads to the demise of self-confidence and the demand for external approval through likes which translates into ‘love’. A recent study emphasises social media’s adverse psychological effects, with increased depression and anxiety symptoms manifesting among younger individuals. Social media is no longer a place where the youth simply showcase their life but a place where they hope that it attracts validation from their peers.

It is time the government stopped inherently focusing on the use of drugs and alcohol as the leading cause of damage to the adolescent brain. In comparison, they should take less of an external approach and realise that the attention-span-destroyer, incident-initiator, and dream-killer demon exists closer than they think. It exists in every young person’s pocket.


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