How Media is Affecting Adolescent Self Confidence
An eleven year old girl is a child. They should spend time playing outside, arguing with siblings, or at a sleepover. According to Bullying Statistics, they may spend time considering suicide because their age and gender are at the highest risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts occur for a variety of reasons, but computers, televisions, and cell phones are on that list. 80% of high school students have been bullied online. Children can’t walk away from the bully anymore. The bully is in their hand, on their television, in their magazine, or is their Facebook friend. Bullying is no longer being done just by cruel people, but by cruel media and young girls desire to use it.
In the past decade, there has been a 44% increase in the usage of social media. One study showed that 95% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 utilize the internet and that 8 out of 10 teens use social media. Another study showed that 58% of twelve year olds own a cell phone. In the U.S., adolescents spend six to seven hours a day using some form of media. Media is being used excessively. Many studies show that media does not have a positive impact on the confidence, well-being, or self-image of the young people using it. They are constantly being compared to celebrities and one another. According to them, they aren’t measuring up.
Being compared to the celebrities in magazines, movies, and television is getting harder. The celebrities are becoming more thin, tan, and unrealistic. These celebrities are affecting even young children. A study done on a group of fifth graders showed that they were dissatisfied with their bodies after watching a Britney Spears music video or even an episode of “Friends.” Children as young as ten do not feel attractive because of mass media. A study done on body self–esteem showed that girls exposed to thin model images were more affected then ones exposed to average size model. Media is not only affecting young girls but teenagers and young adults too. In a study done by Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts, 70% of college women felt worse about their own looks after reading a magazine. In the past when people looked at magazines, they often were looking at the hair, fashion, nails, or makeup. Now, they are looking at the body of the person selling the product. Girls feel that their body is not as small as the one on the page and they feel inferior. A study showed that teenage girls that watched models that were unrealistically thin, felt less confident and actual anger at their weight and appearance. Why the sudden shift? Why in the past decade have girls become less confident? It is largely due to celebrities, television shows, and magazines, but it also is due to each other. The way adolescents are interacting on social media has become detrimental to their self-confidence. Their biggest enemy may be their best friends or even themselves.
The possibilities are becoming endless. Girls are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many more social media outlets to take pictures of themselves, their friends, and almost anything else. One survey taken by over 1,000 high school girls regarding social media admitted that conversations about appearance were “intensified when done on social media and that they were influential because their peers were a part of it.” Girls are competing on not only what weekend activity is better than another’s but whose looks are better as well. In the previous survey, 80% of the girls weighed in as normal but 46% of them were dissatisfied with their weight. It is hard for young girls to keep in mind that what they are seeing people post is what those people want them to see. They are posting pictures that make them look their best and make their life look incredibly entertaining. Girls are comparing themselves to one another, not only through looks but through life in general. In a survey of 1,206 girls between fourteen and seventeen, almost half believed that social media has created jealous between friends. Using social media negatively has proved to have an effect on the emotions and mental health of adolescents too. One study showed that online communication was consistently associated with a range of socioemotional outcomes. Social media is not a way to communicate for a lot of these girls, it is a way for them to compete against and criticize one another.
Some may argue that bullies are bullies and that social media is just making it easier for them to be hunt their prey. What people don’t realize is that how easy it has become to bully is exactly the issue. This article is a real story of a twelve year old girl named Rebecca Sedwick, she was bullied to death. She was told countless times through social media to kill herself from peers until the day she did. According to the New York Times, she is one of the youngest members of a growing list of teens that has committed suicide after being bullied online.
Social media surely has its benefits. Many adolescents, especially females, use social media to support causes. This study showed that 44% of adolescent said they have become more aware of other’s needs since being on social media. The study also mentioned that 2000, US teens fasted to help Haiti earthquake survivors. Incredible things can be happen through social media but horrific tragedies can happen as well. It must be acknowledged that some are clearly more severe than others. But every skimpy magazine article, every picture that they can’t compare to, every post by the friend that has better vacations, and every subtweet that makes a comment about them is adding up. When you put it all together you get low self-confidence, you get eating disorders, you get depression, and in the harshest cases, you may get suicide. We need to promote wellness, promote natural beauty, and promote confidence to our youth.