Specialisation: Social Media Restrictions For Young Users

The Importance and Need for Social Media Restrictions for Young Users

The technological advances in this century have increased the number of people online. The internet has become a massive component of people’s lives. The use of social media is growing at an alarming rate, and at least everyone living in America has a social media account or uses social media. Social media can be described as a collection of smartphone applications and websites focusing on community-based interactions, communication, and content creation and sharing among online users. It has become an integral use for people to communicate and share ideas, especially among young people, who comprise most users. It allows them to connect with their friends and families online and create new friends. It also aids them in creating communities with people who are familiar with or share similar ideologies, ideas, and beliefs. Social media opens up new worlds for young people as they interact with random people and strangers online and scroll through various content online. The content varies from good and safe to dangerous since different people use social media with ill intentions disregarding the safety and maturity level of the user. There is a need for the government to implement restrictions on social media to ensure the safety of young people using the platforms. These are necessary because social media is quite detrimental to young users. It exposes young people to cyberbullying, is addictive, and creates an unrealistic and often unattainable standard of beauty and success, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Therefore, I argue that there should be some restrictions on the use of social media among young adults to protect their mental health.

Reasons for Restrictions

One of the major challenges of social media use among young people that warrant the need for restrictions is that it encourages and exposes them to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying involves harassment online through derogatory terms or insults directed towards a person for their content or ideas posted online. O’Reilly et al. note that cyberbullying is becoming a prevalent challenge among young people using social media, negatively impacting their mental health (12). Stricter regulations and policies from social media platforms and the government are needed to prevent cyberbullying. Flagging and taking down inappropriate comments and reactions towards a person’s profile, post, or comment could help prevent the negative impact of comments on their mental well-being. These comments negatively affect the users they are directed to and could lead to psychological issues, such as depression. Cyberstalking is also a form of cyberbullying whereby an individual stalks their victims’ accounts and harasses them online, making their social media presence unpleasant. Restricting the amount of time a person visits another’s account without any engagement and interaction could help lower cyberstalking cases. There have been cases of young individuals harming themselves and becoming socially withdrawn because of cyberbullying. Their private information is leaked to the public and turned into memes and parody videos meant to mock them. This affects their mental health and social life as they become alienated and ridiculed by their colleagues in school. About 10% of young people globally face the threat of mental health problems that affect their social, academic, and emotional life (Antila 1). They end up developing harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs and substance abuse or even committing suicide to escape the issues they are facing caused by cyberbullying. Hence, I believe there is a need to introduce strict regulations and restrictions on social media that criminalize cyberbullying to help protect young people from the hurtful impacts of the vice and ensure that the platforms are safer for them to use, explore and interact with their loved ones.

Secondly, social media use is quite addictive and affects the productivity of young people. According to the article “Social networking and symptoms of depression and anxiety in early adolescence,” about 97% of teenagers in America are active on social media platforms and quite active in social media networking (Mundy et al., 2). Most adolescents in the country spend their time online on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Spending long hours on social media affects their mental and physical health and academic and social lives. In schools, most students’ concentration spans are highly affected by being logged into their social media accounts while in class or after class. This impairs their information and knowledge retention capabilities, ultimately negatively impacting their academic lives. Besides, Mundy et al. also note that most heavy social media users sleep less than normal, which can be attributed to their failing mental health (6). They exhibit symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression since they are sleep deprived, affecting their emotional state. To remedy this issue, parents, guardians, and teachers could restrict the amount of time their children use social media platforms and apps. For instance, they could restrict it to around 4 hours daily for people under eighteen. I believe this would be an applicable policy to help increase their productivity at school and home. Rather than spending their free time using social media, the platforms could restrict their access and guide them to more productive internet use, such as using it as a learning tool. Parents and guardians could also implement this restriction by limiting their child’s screen time. At home, parents and guardians should limit how much time their children spend on their computers and phones to ensure they sleep early and have enough time for personal studies rather than spending most of their day online. Therefore, enforcing such restrictions could prove vital in controlling how young people become addicted to social media and how it affects their mental health and concentration in school.

Lastly, social media creates an unrealistic and often unattainable standard of beauty and success, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have become avenues for setting up the standards of beauty and wealth through popular trends. These social media platforms set unrealistic standards of beauty and sexuality (Bailey 45). Social media influencers, people, and celebrities with many followers set the tone of beauty standards, trends, and norms that young people follow. Participating in these trends and norms is critical in influencing a young person’s position within their social settings. According to Mundy et al., “Heavy users of social networking sites are more likely to experience envy when viewing others on these sites” (6). Such feelings make most young people feel inadequate and unsure about their bodies and beauty. It affects their self-perceptions and how they appreciate themselves, especially if they are being cyberbullied. Having low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy about their bodies and beauty could lead to mental health problems. It could even lead to eating disorders such as anorexia among girls as they aim to attain the perfect body that celebrities and models depict on their social media platforms. As such, restricting how young people use social media could help elevate their self-esteem and remove feelings of inadequacies that affect their mental health after interacting with other people’s posts on social media platforms.

Counterarguments and refutations

Even though the restrictions on social media use would help overcome the issues that young people face online, they would violate their freedom of speech and expression. The restrictions placed on social media would limit how young people use and utilize it online. The restrictions call for the censorship of content and social media pages that promote cyberbullying and the spread of misinformation to online users. I believe such restrictions will have an adverse effect on the promotion of freedom of speech and expression to all young people online. Social media is used as an avenue for young people to express themselves and share their ideas with others. Such censorship would affect how they interact since their accounts are monitored and censored based on the content they post. It is worth noting that victimization among students takes place through cyberbullying, leading to face-to-face victimization in school (“The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter” 1). Promoting censorship in their engagement will directly affect their freedom of speech and expression since the government and parents will access their private data and use it to monitor them without their consent or knowledge. It will impede their basic freedoms and impact the value of social media being a platform that allows young people to feel free and confident to express themselves. However, the proposed restrictions are not meant to limit young people’s freedom of speech and expression. They are meant to protect their mental health by reducing their exposure to harmful content on social media platforms, which can be done by limiting screen time, using parental controls, or imposing government regulations. These measures are aimed at promoting the safety and well-being of young people, not censorship. They aim to promote transparency across all social media platforms and weeding out harmful content that risks the user’s private data and mental well-being (Ulgen 3). The restrictions are supposed to ensure that social media platforms do not ignore their role in promoting equality and freedom of speech and expression. The restrictions would also promote these freedoms by ensuring that young people are not victimized because of the content they post about themselves. Thus, the restrictions are meant to make social media use safer and more convenient for young users rather than limit their freedom of speech and expression.

Additionally, parents and guardians should be responsible for regulating their children’s social media use, not the government. Parents and guardians have to be aware of the activities in which their children partake. They should be responsible for ensuring that their children use the internet and social media safely. They should also be aware of the type of content their children are accessing since they are aware of the level of their children’s maturity (Venkatraman 7). Parents and guardians can regulate their children’s social media use by monitoring their online activities and setting rules of engagement. I also view parents and guardians can effectively teach their children how to use social media platforms to protect them. They should ensure that their children can have a healthy engagement online with minimal supervision and not rely on the government to develop restrictions on social media for their children. Although parents and guardians should regulate their children’s social media use, regulations can also provide consistency and protect young people from harmful content, especially those who lack support from involved parents or guardians. It will allow for a consistent and improved parent’s capability to supervise their child’s experiences on the media content they digest or interact with (Jordan 3). Parents and guardians should work in tandem with the government to ensure the safety of their children online. The success of the proposed restrictions is highly dependent on the ability of the parents to monitor how their children are using social media. The government should use social media apps to safeguard children from harmful content and emotional distress from cyberbullying. At the same time, the parents supervise and restrict the amount of time they spend online. I believe a collaborated effort from the two main stakeholders is a better strategy to protect young people from online threats than parents and guardians being the only responsible party for their children’s online safety.

Therefore, I argue that the development of restrictions on social media will help protect the mental health of young people using the platforms. Social media is quite popular among young people and could affect their mental health leading to depression, anxiety, and even suicide. The influence of social media in the lives of young people should not be underestimated, and this warrants the need to put restrictions on social media platforms. The government should ensure that social media platforms protect young people by implementing policies restricting their use of the app. These restrictions also limit how strangers interact with young people online to prevent issues of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. They will also aid in flagging hateful comments made toward the users. The government should enforce the criminalization of cyberbullying to help protect young people online and offline. Parents and guardians should also take up an active role in enforcing the restrictions. They should limit the time their children spend online and monitor what they do on social media. Thus, a collaborative effort between the government, parents, and social media platforms could prove vital in protecting young people from using social media.

Work Cited

“The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter.” 2015, pp 4-5.

Anttila, Katriina, et al. “Concerns and hopes among adolescents attending adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinics.” Child and Adolescent Mental Health 20.2 (2015): 81-88.

Jordan, Amy B. “Children’s Media Policy.” The Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 1, 2008, pp. 235–53. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20053126. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

Mundy, Lisa K., et al. “Social networking and symptoms of depression and anxiety in early adolescence.” Depression and anxiety 38.5 (2021): 563-570.

O’Reilly, Michelle, Diane Levine, and Effie Law. “Applying a ‘digital ethics of care’philosophy to understand adolescents’ sense of responsibility on social media.” Pastoral Care in Education 39.2 (2021): 91-107.

Ülgen, Sinan. “Freedom of Expression Online.” Governing Cyberspace: A Road Map for Transatlantic Leadership, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2016, pp. 17–28. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep26924.7. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

Venkatraman, Shriram. “Conclusion: Social Media and Its Continuing Complexities.” Social Media in South India, UCL Press, 2017, pp. 197–207. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1qnw88r.13. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.