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The Dock Competition 2017

April 25, 2017

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ask a teenage girl, how often do you text? “250 times a day, or something,” she tells me. Shocking! The digital lives of teenagers have become a target of weekly attacks. In a recent essay for the Guardian, the novelist Jonathan Franzen regretted online socialising, arguing that it was creating a uniquely shallow and trivial culture, making kids unable to socialise face to face.

You don’t need to be a parent to fret about the consequences that will occur in young people. It isn’t hard to spot the damage social media has caused. Its all around us. In nearly every single person you see.  The pressure to be perfect and always ‘on’ is overwhelming many of us, as studies show, but the government will not step in. The digital landscape has put increased pressure on teenagers today, and we feel it. There are so many social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, you name it. I made a conscious decision to avoid Snapchat and Instagram because of the social pressure I saw them putting on my 16-year-old older sister.

If my mum turned off the Wi-Fi at 11pm, my sister would beg me to turn my phone into a hotspot. She always needed to load her Snapchat stories one more time, or to reply to a message that had come in two minutes ago because she didn’t want her friend to feel ignored. If I refused, saying she could respond in the morning, I’d get the “You’re ruining my social life” speech. Even as a teenager as well, I sometimes find this craze a little baffling.

A new study has found that teenagers who engage with social media during the night could be damaging their sleep and increasing their risk of anxiety and depression. Teenagers spoke about the pressure they felt to make themselves available 24/7 and the resulting anxiety if they did not respond immediately to texts or posts. Teens are so emotionally invested in social media that a fifth of secondary school pupils will wake up at night and log on, just to make sure they don’t miss out.

“Kids still spend time face to face”. Indeed, as they get older and are given more freedom, they often ease up on social networking. Early on, the web is their “third space”, but by the late teens, it’s replaced in reaction to greater autonomy.

They have to be on Facebook, to know what’s going on among friends and family, but they are ambivalent about it, says Rebecca Eynon, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, who has interviewed about two hundred British teenagers over three years. As they gain experience with living online, they begin to adjust their behaviour, wrestling with new communication skills, as they do in the real world.

A separate study by the National Citizen Service found that, rather than talking to their parents, girls seek comfort on social media when they are worried. The survey also suggests that girls are likely to experience stress more often than boys – an average of twice a week.

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