Story By EMILIE NIELSEN
As cellphones become central to modern living, cyberbullying has replaced spitballs and hallway taunting as the torture-du-jour for students and teenagers.
With social media sharing the “best version” of yourself some have taken it to an extreme and started using editing apps to change the shape or look of an image.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a large rise in mental health issues, including anxiety, stemming from teenagers’ use of social media. This anxiety can be substantial enough to create everyday issues such as absence from school or the ability to complete basic tasks.
“I don’t feel comfortable going to school. I don’t feel as welcome or that I don’t have enough friends as the others,” Estelle Andreasen, 13, said.” Everyone I know has at least 500 followers. I don’t even have 100.”
Her anxiety was manageable until she got social media and now she skips school at least twice a week.
That anxiety is part of a larger issue of teenage insecurity and low self-esteem that some suggest is caused by Instagram and other social media.
Debbie Perry, a high school counselor who has been a high school counselor for 25 years, said one of the saddest parts of social media and smartphones she’s seen over the years is the risk that anyone and everyone can be bullied online.
“There has been such a large amount of people coming in over the last few years talking about the online bullying they have been receiving,” she said. “As a Counselor, we work on trying to make it a safe place at school with less use of phones to lower the ability of online bullying for our students.”
Another thing she said that she sees as a counselor is people bullying themselves because they aren’t thin enough or they didn’t go on fun spring or fall breaks like all their friends or classmates. There is also the fact that students go along with peer pressure more often due to social media.
This spurs anxiety in teenagers that they don’t have as exciting or interesting lives as their peers and they shouldn’t post to their social media accounts, even if they’re just sharing their “best face.”
Annie and Emma Black are 13-year-old twins in seventh grade. They just got their first phones for their birthday.
“I was so excited to have a phone,” said Annie. “I wanted so badly to be able to talk to my friends and be able to use Instagram!”
Their mom Amber Black is worried about Annie’s use of her phone. She and her husband feel as though they are constantly taking it away to get her to work on homework. Emma, however, won’t go on her phone until she is done with her homework.
“Annie is a little more troublesome, she wants to be on her phone all day and ignore her responsibilities,” said Amber.
“Emma, on the other hand, could care less about what is going on, on her phone. She rarely even gets on her phone when she is home and doesn’t want to ruin her grades due to her phone,” Amber added.
There are educational benefits of having access to cell phones in schools, including research and communicating with teachers and classmates. But it can also be a huge distraction.
Multi-tasking while working on homework and looking at social media may distract teenagers, prolonging the time to complete assignments or not retaining the information they’re learning.
Deanne Kapetanov, principal at Mueller Park Jr. High in Bountiful, said multiple teachers take away phones from students every day. Students also sneak into the bathroom to respond to texts, look at Instagram or Snapchat their friends.
“It is hard to see the students be more focused on their phones walking to and from classes and spending their free time looking at social media or texting friends instead of actually spending time with each other,” Kapetanov said.
Developing social skills have also lagged in teenagers because they don’t spend time face to face. The teens and pre-teens are having a harder time making friends with others, Kapetanov said. This is creating a major risk factor for depression, suicide and other mental health issues – all issues that come along with social media.