Featured Image: Mars Johnson | Marlin Chronicle
All it takes now is a few clicks to learn everything about the lives of others on social media. With rising concern about how this impacts younger generations, 41 U.S states have taken legal action.
U.S. states, including Virginia, and the District of Columbia filed a joint lawsuit against Meta on Oct. 24, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and more. The lawsuit alleges that Meta designed Instagram and Facebook in ways that harm young users.
An article from The New York Times explained that the complaint said Meta had “designed psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended use.” The complaint pointed out issues found within the company’s algorithms.
The basis of the claim is that Meta intentionally implements addictive features “designed to push children and teenagers into rabbit holes of toxic and harmful content.” The claim specifically highlights features such as “infinite scroll,” saying that these are meant to “hook young users.”
Expert studies substantiate concerns about the amount of time young people spend on social media.
Studies from scientificamerican.com show that social media use lowers self-esteem, mood and body image. This can be partially attributed to comparisons teens make between themselves and others, such as models. The issue is amplified through the use of photo editing.
According to the Child Mind Institute, depression among teenagers and adults has increased over the last decade, while the usage of social media is also increasing.
Sophomore Molly Brennan voiced her thoughts on the maturity levels of kids using social media.
“I have noticed that kids younger than me seem to look a lot older on social media in the ways they dress and act, but they are super emotionally immature,” Brennan said.
Social media tends to highlight the more popular people and mainly shows how happy lives are, when in actuality, that is not realistic for anyone.
“Kids see these models and influencers on social media and they want to look like them, but they are only 12 years old or so,” Brennan said.
While Brennan believes that parents should have more restrictions set for their kids on social media, it is tough when introducing kids to social media at such a young age is more widely accepted now than ever.
“It feels like social media is being forced upon kids, in a manner that if you do not have social media, you are missing out,” Brennan said.
According to the Common Sense Census, about 56% of U.S. youth aged 8 to 18 have their own social media accounts and the average age for a child getting their first account is around 12.6 years. In contrast, the average required age that social media platforms enforce is 13.
Instagram and Facebook, two of Meta’s most prominent platforms, are seen as two of the less restricted social media apps available.
First-year Bryce Folmar shared his opinions on younger kids accessing social media.
“Kids are getting on social media at a younger age at a time where I believe they are not mature enough,” Folmar said.
According to Tom Huddleston Jr. of CNBC, some experts advise against kids under 13 using social media and kids, especially without limited access and other screen time monitoring, waiting until they are at least 16 years old.
Folmar also described some of the benefits of social media.
“You get to share ideas on different topics and viewpoints, which is great when there are people from all around the world on social media, so it is cool being connected with all different types of people,” Folmar said.
Folmar said he is thankful his parents taught him about the dangers of social media at a young age, as this can have a major impact on one’s experience.
First-year Luke Arters shared that he was using social media at a relatively young age, but not below most platform’s guidelines. “I was 13 years old when I was introduced to Instagram,” he said.
Arters is a prime example of someone who has not let social media dictate their lives. “Being on social media at a younger age has not impacted me a lot because I was not fully invested in it. I kind of just had it for fun,” Arters said.
All kids grow up with different levels of maturity, but Arters was prepared to have social media.
“I would say that there are a lot of people that have access to content that they should not at such a young age because the internet is fairly unrestricted,” Arters said.
This level of restriction pertains to not only what the user can access, but what information the platform can access about the user.
According to CBS News, Meta is crossing serious boundaries with its users. The 233-page complaint states that “Meta’s business practices violate the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), as well as other state consumer protection laws.”
Meta will continue to attempt to fight the lawsuit filed against them by 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as the lawsuit could threaten their profits and reputation.
By Coy Camiscioli