The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
Social media makes parenting so much harder
As a parent to a 13-year-old boy — and a pair of girls, ages 12 and
9 — I recognize I’m entering a perilous time.
I mean, I was a teenager once. From the age of 13 until the age of 19 were technically my teenage years — duh — but they pretty much lasted until I was, oh, 32 or 33 thereabouts.
Point being this: I thought I knew best, parents are stupid, shut up and get out of my way.
When I was a teenager, my parents had to battle with my obnoxiousness while also having to worry about what dumb stuff I was going to do.
For instance: Two weeks after I got my driver’s license, my parents spied me speeding. I was doing about 70 in a 25.
Then there was the drunk driving, which I assume they knew about? I don’t know.
And add in all the typical teenage hoo-ha and whatsnot, and raising a teen in the late 80s and early 90s probably wasn’t easy.
But it was also probably about 100 times easier than raising a teenager today, and the main reason why is social media.
When social media first debuted, I thought it was the greatest thing. Something to connect the world! Kumbaya!
Well, today, I realize social media is the worst thing ever, and I pretty much only use it to follow fantasy football news.
Not even kidding: While I’m not going to blame social media for all of today’s societal woes, it’s clear that it has been an accelerant. And it’s definitely making teenagers — especially girls — miserable.
Study after study is showing a huge rise in anxiety among this age set, and it’s clear — to me — social media is a key driver.
I’m writing this today after the Chatham School district filed suit against Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and YouTube, claiming the sites have caused “severe mental harm” among students. Of course, this comes on the heels of the absolutely tragic suicide of a 14-year-old girl who was attacked at Central Regional High School and had the beating posted all over social media.
Now: Do I think this lawsuit is going to go anywhere? Almost certainly not. Seems like a longshot. And this: Were people beating each other up before social media? Of course.
But — and this is the worst part about social media — it just never ends. Literally. When we were in high school, if we had a bad day or a bully attacked us or people made fun of us, we could leave school at 3 p.m. and have the next 18 hours or so to be free from our tormentors.
Today, thanks to social media, it’s 24/7.
And it’s not just this objectively terrible stuff. You can track friends and see where they are — and wonder why you weren’t invited. You can doom scroll. You can just waste your life away watching TikTok. You can try an emulate YouTube stars and wonder why you only have two followers.
The list seems endless. And as a parent, you’re kind of hogtied. Ideally, we would never have let our son on social media. Then COVID happened, and we relented, thinking — rightly, sort of — that he needed it to keep up with friends.
Now, the cat is out of the bag, and he’s all over social media. Not as much as some of his friends, but more than others. And what’s a parent to do? Completely ban the kid from it, legitimately separating him from his peers? Can’t really do that either.
It’s a no-win situation. The only thing that might work is a real age limit. Like, you need a Social Security number to open up a social media account. Age verification. It’s easy enough to do — looks at sports betting sites — and doing so might go a long way to keeping our kids mentally healthy.
Something needs to change, otherwise we’re simply not doing our job as the adults in the room.