Technology/Social Media – Good or Bad?


Saltwire Network

Facebook began in 2004; so, this year we’re celebrating the 20 th anniversary of the largest social media platform, boasting 3.05 billion users – with its owner worth 171.1 billion dollars. The introduction of smart phones, which placed mini computers in everyone’s hands, sent technology and social media usage into major overdrive.

Recently, four major Ontario school boards have decided to take some of these social media giants to court. They are alleging that the way in which the products are designed have negatively rewired the way children think, behave, and learn. Obviously, such changes in behaviour result in disruption, and alter how schools operate. The Chair of the Toronto District School Board stated: “These social media
companies have knowingly created a product that is addictive and marketed to children.” There is currently a mental health crisis and our children are the unwitting participants.

So what changed in such a short period of time? Are children really addicted to technology and social media? From intense studies, it appears that they are indeed suffering tech addiction and its repercussions.

Here’s a disturbing list of some things we’ve learned through studies and surveys:

Nearly 50% of teens aged 13-17 said using social media makes them feel worse.

Since 2019, the number of pre-teen boys who shared nude images online doubled, while the number tripled for teenaged boys.

Online predators can bond with your child in eight minutes.

Teens spending more than three hours a day on social media double the risk of poor mental health outcomes.

One survey of 8th and 10th graders found the average time spent on social media is 3.5 hours a day, and almost 15% of participants spent more than 7 hours a day on their devices.

Almost 60% of teenage girls say they’ve been contacted by a stranger on social media platforms in ways that make them feel uncomfortable.

Every two minutes, a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation.

The average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years.

Since 2010, teen suicide amongst girls has increased 64%; depression amongst teens almost 150%.

Facebook’s (now Meta) own study revealed that social media makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teenage girls. This fact was revealed and reiterated by Meta whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Ms. Haugen. She became increasingly concerned about the cover-up of negative statistics by the company’s leadership and in 2021, released tens of thousands of documents to the Wall Street Journal. Meta’s founder denied there was any causal link between social media and mental health.

Dr. Jean Twenge, author of IGEN, and Generations, considered an expert in the field, said Mark Zuckerberg is wrong – there is definitely a causal link. Dr. Twenge says from 2011-2019, teen depression more than doubled. She attributes this to heightened anxiety and loneliness. Further, she wrote there were three significant events since 2011 when the negative trend began: social media was more commonly used; front-facing cameras became a thing, and Facebook purchased Instagram. Dr. Twenge contends these significant events have negatively exacerbated the relationship young people have with technology.

We are seeing dramatically increasing suicide rates linked to rising use of social media. The suicide rates in one North American demographic, children aged 10-14, have tripled. According to, from 2021-2022, there was a 55% increase in online luring, and in that same time frame (actually six months), a whopping 150% increase in Sextortion. And we haven’t even mentioned Cyberbullying. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, nearly half of parents even admit they spend too much time on their smartphones. Sadly, as parents, we are modeling social media behaviours to our children – what’s seemingly important, the time we’re spending on a device, and the attention we receive from it. Approximately 30% of parents say they are often or sometimes distracted by their phones when conversing with their teens, but 46% of those children said their parents were distracted during conversations.

Over exposure to social media can make children vulnerable to online predators, potential identity theft and fraud, and compromised job opportunities in the future, but it can also harm their sense of self – they have no privacy, which children need. Social media platforms are designed to be addictive and they reward users for their engagement. Many studies have now shown direct links between the amounts of screen time for children and disrupted sleep, low self-esteem, poor body image, eating disorders, attention and memory deficits, depression and anxiety (as previously mentioned).

Understanding that mind and body are connected is critical to addressing the issue. Over time, depression, anxiety, and loneliness can affect our physical health – heart disease, dementia, and premature death are potential outcomes. We are hardwired to connect with other people and there is no replacement for that in-person connection. One professor noted that his university’s cafeteria was a place where you couldn’t hear yourself think – there was so much talking; now, it’s like a ghost town full of people – but without conversation. There is little doubt that our young people are being harmed and loneliness is now commonplace.

Talking openly with our children not only increases their knowledge about the issue but also heightens their willingness to reach out should they have a negative experience online or otherwise. Having such open access to technology, without parameters, is a recipe for disaster. With no standards, guidelines, or guardrails when it comes to social media, we must begin to hold these platforms accountable. While an ‘Online Harms Bill’ (C-63) was introduced by our federal government earlier this year, it can take years for such legislation to pass. This is far from reasonable given the current epidemic in mental health.

According to Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Anxious Generation, wherein he combines the results of numerous studies with his own research, recommends a four-step plan for bringing our children out of this current crisis. First, there should be no smartphones before high school. Second, there should be no social media before 16. Third, phones in schools should be prohibited (in schools where this change has been made, the children and administrators have embraced the shift and love the increased connections). Four, we, as parents, should allow more independence and free play in the real world.

It appears as though children are growing up without a childhood; can we give them back some of it? As we guide our children through the digital age, we must remember to lead by example. By reducing our own time on social media, we can show them the value of real world connections, meaningful conversations, quality time, and living in the present moment. Let’s hope it’s not too late!

Connie Pike, BA Police Studies
Miles for Smiles Foundation