May 18, 2024
social media

Why Implementing Bans on Smartphones or Social Media for Teenagers May Not Be Beneficial

In light of increasing calls for restrictions on young people under the age of 16 from using smartphones or accessing social media platforms, some groups are advocating for a complete ban on such devices and applications. The Smartphone Free Childhood WhatsApp group, for example, seeks to promote a culture where adolescents do not have smartphones until they reach at least 14 years old. Additionally, Esther Ghey, the mother of the tragically murdered teenager Brianna Ghey, is spearheading a campaign to prohibit social media apps for individuals under the age of 16.

The primary concern revolves around the potential exposure of young individuals to harmful or illegal content, as well as the negative experiences that may arise from interactions on these digital platforms. However, experts in youth digital media usage are questioning whether setting arbitrary age restrictions will effectively enhance the safety and well-being of young people, as well as whether such measures are supported by empirical evidence regarding the digital technology habits of adolescents.

Research has indicated that the majority of young people maintain a positive rapport with digital technology. A survey conducted by the charity South West Grid for Learning in 2018, which involved over 8,000 youths, revealed that just over two-thirds of the respondents had never encountered any distressing experiences online. Furthermore, extensive studies on the correlation between social media usage and emotional well-being have indicated a minimal link between social media and psychological distress.

While it is acknowledged that some youths may indeed face distressing digital encounters or harm through online interactions, it is essential to recognize that similar negative experiences can occur in various offline settings as well. Unlike activities such as playing sports or attending social events, which are typically not subject to discussions of prohibition, digital technologies often become the target of calls for bans.

It is crucial to consider the parallels between attempts to regulate youth access to digital platforms and other societal issues such as underage sexual activity or substance abuse. Past efforts to curtail such behaviors have demonstrated that bans alone are ineffective in preventing them. Additionally, imposing bans may serve to undermine the trust young individuals have in seeking support from adults when faced with distressing situations.

Empowering young people with effective education and fostering trustful relationships with adults are key factors in addressing negative online experiences. It is imperative that adults prioritize understanding the digital landscape and provide adequate support to youths navigating the complexities of online interactions. Rather than resorting to bans, efforts should be directed towards enhancing education and fostering open communication channels between young individuals and supportive adults.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it