Who Is The Real Social Media Murderer?

Who Is The Real Social Media Murderer?

Anisha Lacerda

Since the beginning of social media, the news media’s portrayal of teens and the “dangerous challenges” that seemingly most teenagers take part in on social media can skew a parent’s perception of what these apps are actually like. Yes, there can be dangerous challenges being spread on these apps, but news stations allow it to seem that every other teenager is partaking in these challenges, when that is simply not the case. Are news outlets focusing on the wrong social media murderer?

Every time I turn on the news and hear a breaking story similar to “TikTok is pressuring kids to take lethal amount of benadryl as a fun challenge”, I can already hear parents nationwide saying “kids these days are so stupid”. But is that actually true, or is that just what the media wants parents to think. Does the media just want parents to believe that their child is too dense to be able to bully other students and get into their mind? These stories can take away from the real issues social media poses, that are not talked about enough in the media.

The TidePods challenge: we all remember when it was trending, and parents started hiding their TidePods from the fear that their child would be the next victim of this internet peer pressure. The way the newscasters went into detail about the story made it seem as though every child was doing it, and this is going to be the next epidemic. But how many people do we know actually did it? It was reported from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) that in 2016, there were 39 cases of misuse among teenagers, and 53 in 2017. While it is important to not disregard these cases, let’s take a look at these cases compared to cases of depression at the fault of social media.

According to the Child Mind Institute, “a 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015…the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent”. If we compare the 39 cases of TidePod misuse to the 500,000 reported cases of depression among teens due to social media, one is clearly a bigger problem. The same goes for other supposedly trending challenges such as the Benadryl challenge, or the bleaching eyes challenge. These challenges are unheard of amongst many teens, and were only brought to our attention when the media started covering it. Not unheard of to teens, however, is cyberbullying and social media peer pressure.

With apps like “Yolo” that promote kids sending anonymous messages to their peers, bullying is much more accessible. With cyberbullying, it’s more than only having to face bullies at school, because now with social media, they can follow you everywhere, and hide their face. With the rise of social media, bullying grew as well.

While it is important for parents to hear about these potentially dangerous challenges, it can lead to the misinterpretation that kids can be mindless. Parents won’t believe kids are capable of much worse, so instead of parent’s hearing about how their child lacks common sense, parents should know more about the real issues social media can pose on mental health.