In a world filled with digital connectivity ,social media plays a big role in shaping the lives of our teens. From friendships to self-esteem, the virtual world is intertwined into the life of a teenager.
The invention of social media has transformed the way teenagers navigate their formative years. TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are not just apps, they are alternate dimensions where friendships are forged, identities are shaped and self-expression takes Centre stage.
The developmental stage of our early years play an important role in building self-confidence. This phase can be challenging ,especially when hormonal changes impact physical appearance, leading teens to feel uneasy in their own bodies. Social media has the potential to intensify these challenges, offering them not only the chance to compare themselves with peers but also with people across the globe.
In a recent systematic review conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Statement, a team of five reviewers delved into the relationship between social media and psychosocial development.
The review comprehensively explored 20research papers published between 2008and 2019, revealing a nuanced understanding of the subject. It acknowledged social media as a space for psychosocial development, recognizing both potential risks and benefits. The identified potential risks included excessive use, problematic comparison and cyberbullying associated with engagement on social media.
Beyond the academia, teenagers are grappling with a loss of focus not only in their studies but also in their sports and daily lives. The constant pursuit of attention in the virtual world, coupled with the race to post the first comment or receive the first like may contribute to an increasing detachment from the real world.
To unravel the realities of this digital world, I turned to the voices of the youngsters at my local high school.
One thing that is clear in my interviews is the consensus that social media is both a blessing and a curse. Thobi, a grade 12learner shares, “Instagram is where I connect with friends, but it’s also where I feel pressure to look a certain way.” As teens grapple with self-image, the digital mirror of social media often distorts reality, creating unrealistic standards.
In contrast, Kwezi, a grade 12 learner brings another perspective. “Social media opens a window to the world for us. We learn about different cultures, global issues and connect beyond our borders.” The digital world seems like a double-edged sword, offering both challenges and opportunities for teenage development.
To understand more, I spoke to Nandipha, an16 year old from Vosloorus who emphasizes the positive influence of social media on cultural exchange. “We get to share our traditions and learn from others. It’s a beautiful way to break down boarders.,” she says.
However, challenges persist. Mjakes* 18,raises concerns about the digital divide.
“Not everyone has access to the same opportunities online. It creates inequality among us.” He says. These young voices underscore the need for a deeper understanding of social media’s impact, considering the ways in which teenagers grow.
In the midst of so many platforms, the roles of parents becomes crucial. Talks with parents reveal a shared concern for their kids well-being online. According to the Kwezi’s mother, “In this digital age, staying involved in our children’s online lives is not just a choice; it’s a necessity.”
As these platforms struggle with issues of privacy and cyberbullying, the call for responsible regulation intensifies. Legislators, educators and tech companies face the challenge of creating a safe digital space that fosters healthy development.
In the realm of growing up online, the impact of social media on teen development is profound and intricate. The stories of highschoolers in the Gen X family unveil a narrative woven with both challenges and opportunities. As society grapples with the implications, the need for fostering digital resilience becomes very important. The future of teenage development lies at the intersection of virtual and real, demanding a balance between connectivity and introspection.
*Note: Mjakes is a pseudonym used to protect the interviewee’s identity.

(O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).
Kwezi and Suping