March 9, 2023
Arguably the biggest difference between Gen Z and any generation that came before it is the influence of social media and the internet, which can bring benefits and challenges. Some of the more common negative effects that teens must combat with social media include exposure to comparison and peer pressure.
“I’m not saying it’s always negative, but in terms of that exposure, emotions now are a little bit more heightened than [they were] in the past years,” Caldwell said. “The [handling of] emotions is a little bit harder, but I do like with our teenagers that mental health is an option. For my generation, it started to become an option, but with our parents, it was never an option.”
Another concern with the addition of social media in the lives of Gen Z teenagers is that online conflicts and cyberbullying are much more present and easily accessible.
“Teenagers now don’t know life without internet,” student assistance counselor Stephanie Bañuelos said. “We kind of joke as adults [that] our school day would be much easier if kids didn’t have their phones, just because a lot of the bullying or conflicts all stem from somebody messaging somebody [or] somebody saying something [over social media]. It’s just so accessible every day to say something mean. That’s different [from] past generations — they had to go up to somebody and say something to them.”
Social media also provides an avenue for students to learn mental health terminology, which can have its positives and negatives.
“The beauty of social media, access to the internet and it being so readily available is that we do have the terminology to understand anxiety and depression and to know there’s a lot of people that maybe we didn’t realize have anxiety and depression or symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Bañuelos said. “But I also think people are quick to self diagnose, not understanding that it is OK that we feel anxious. It doesn’t mean that we have a true diagnosis of anxiety, but there are going to be times that we naturally feel anxious. We are meant to feel that at times.”