Social Media Not 'Inherently' Harmful Or Helpful To Teens, Report Says

When Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a law banning teens from social media without parental consent, he justified the measure by asserting that social media has been proven to harm teens.

At a March signing ceremony, Cox specifically claimed that recent studies show that spending time on social media causes psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm. Shortly after Utah enacted the ban, Arkansas followed suit, for similar reasons.

This week, a panel of the American Psychological Association issued a new report that calls these laws into question.

“Using social media is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people,” that report states. “In most cases, the effects of social media are dependent on adolescents’ own personal and psychological characteristics and social circumstances -- intersecting with the specific content, features, or functions that are afforded within many social media platforms.”

Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer for the American Psychological Association, tells MediaPost that current science regarding social media and teens “is not consistent with an all-or-nothing approach.”

“Taking it away completely would be ill-advised,” he says, referring to laws that prevent teens from using social media.

The organization says in its new report that platforms “can promote healthy socialization,” but that adolescents should be trained in “social media literacy” before using social media.

For instance, the report says, teens could be trained to question the accuracy of posts, and to understand how people can use social media to spread lies.

The report also explores the plusses and minuses of teens' social media use.

One possible benefit, according to the authors, is that social media use can help teens in crisis, as well as teens who belong to “marginalized groups.”

“Access to peers that allows LGBTQIA+ and questioning adolescents to provide support to and share accurate health information with one another is beneficial to psychological development, and can protect youth from negative psychological outcomes when experiencing stress,” the authors write. “This may be especially important for topics that adolescents feel reluctant to or are unable to discuss with a parent or caregiver.”

At the same time, the report says some design features -- such as the “like” button, and recommendations -- “should be tailored to the social and cognitive abilities and comprehension of adolescent users.”

This new report comes one week after the American Psychological Association endorsed a new version of the controversial Kids Online Safety Act. That bill would require platforms to take “reasonable measures” to prevent and mitigate potential harms such as depression, eating disorders, and online bullying, when displaying material to users known to be under 17. Civil liberties advocates oppose the bill, arguing it could prevent teens from accessing posts that are protected by the First Amendment.

1 comment about "Social Media Not 'Inherently' Harmful Or Helpful To Teens, Report Says".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, May 12, 2023 at 9:32 p.m.

    I'm not surprised that a report would go that it's in between about teens and social I believe that it parents choice if they want their teens to have social media or not, laws saying teens can't have social media even if they have parental consent is wrong overstepping by the government thinking they know best when they don't.

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