In their own words, what young people wish they knew about social media

It’s dangerous. It’s addictive. It’s addictive.

Adults in their life constantly warn children about the dangers of social media, usually in the form dire warnings or commands. These adults are not social media natives.

As toddlers, they didn’t receive a mobile phone to keep them quiet at a restaurant. Before they could read, they didn’t do silly dances with Musica.ly’s predecessor TikTok. In a pandemic that affected the world, they didn’t lose their schooling and their connection to their friends and peers was reduced to computer and phone screens.

Social media has opened up a new world for kids. Now that they’re older, they can offer some advice to their younger counterparts.

What they wish they had known when they first started online

Bao Le, 18 says that ‘the posts that people make on social media are just highlights, like 1% of the life they want to show to others’. AP


“You don’t need to share everything”

“It is so easy to compare yourself with your friends and feel FOMO. It’s as if you are comparing yourself to them, for example: “Oh, my friend has just bought a new car.” This overwhelming feeling of comparison can be felt. The things people post on social networks are just highlights, the 1% they want other people to see.

– Bao, 18 years old and a Vanderbilt University freshman



Doreen Malata is a 22-year-old senior at University of Maryland. She says that her best advice would be to ‘not take it too serious. Be yourself.’ — AP Photo/Almaz Abedje)


“Don’t Take It Too Seriously”

My main advice is to not take it too serious. Be yourself. What I experienced as a 12-year old was far more limited than the options available to 12-year olds today. The younger kids want to emulate their idols. When the TikTok or social media stars reach 20, 18, 16 they will want to be just like them. It’s getting harder to be young as younger kids are obsessed with brands and products. It shouldn’t be so hard to be a teenager. Enjoy your childhood. We shouldn’t rush to become adults. It’s okay to be 12 It’s okay to be 12. Enjoy your childhood.

Doreen Malata is a 22-year-old senior at the University of Maryland



Sienna Keene wishes she had told her younger selves how addictive social media can be. — AP


“How addictive is it?”

It seems easy enough to put down your phone and stop scrolling. It’s not. Even though I never would have said it when I first started using social media, if I had the chance to give advice to my younger selves, I would tell them to set time limits for me. I would also not allow my child to use TikTok. I would resist it for as long as possible. “It’s so addicting.”

Sienna Keene is a 17-year-old high school student in Orinda.



Ava Havidic (18) suggests a social media detox to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of content available on apps. — AP


‘Take a social media detox’

“When you get these apps for the first time, you’re like, BOOM! There is so much to do. Styles, fashion models. When you first see it, it really makes you wonder: “How do they manage to do that? How did they get that look? You may be overwhelmed by these social media trends if you are new. I began to monitor my screen time on my phone, and I limited the amount of social media I was on. I have been doing phone detoxes. On weekends, I will take a 10 hour or majority of the day social media detox. I will spend time with my family and ride my bicycle. Only my workspace and messages are notified. “I don’t receive notifications from social media apps.”

Ava Havidic is a senior high school student in Broward County.



Lea Nepomuceno (18), a freshman student at George Washington University says, “You can use social networking to amplify passions. But in order to achieve that, you have to do a great deal of work outside social media. You need to discover yourself as a person and what you value. AP


“You are in control”

“I hear the term social media user a lot, but I feel like I’m being used by it. I used to scroll mindlessly on TikTok and compare myself with other people. This ultimately affected my perception of beauty and what society accepts as beautiful. Social media only made me feel tired or sad.

“You can use the social media to amplify your passions. But to do this, you have to do a great deal of work outside social media. You need to discover who and what you are, what you value, and what you can contribute to the world.”

Lea Nepomuceno is a 18-year-old freshman at George Washington University



Mikael, 18, is a freshman student at American University. He believes social media wastes time. AP


“It’s just a waste”

“I’d say don’t use this. It’s a bit of a waste. You just talk about random pop-culture stuff. You waste your time. It’s not worth it. You only get a short-term thrill. It’s a bit meaningless. “I know it’s a bit outlandish but I think there should be an age limit on the internet because I don’t believe children should use it.”

Mikael Makonnen is a 18-year-old freshman at American University



Nour Mahmoud is a 21-year-old junior at Virginia Commonwealth University who wishes that more people understood that many of the things shared on social media were not real. — AP


“A lot of what you see is fake”

“Many people artificially alter their lives to be perceived in a particular way. Social media is something I would have liked to know before I started using it. You can learn so many things about so many different topics. … “I wish people would have that attitude rather than the idea of how other people view you and your need to be seen in a certain light.”

Nour Mahmoud is a 21-year-old junior at Virginia Commonwealth University



Madeleine Maestre is a freshman student at Santa Clara University. She wishes she had known to her younger self that it was OK not to want to see posts about unrealistic beauty standards and that “not everyone on social networking sites is your friend”. — AP


“It’s okay to block someone and set boundaries”

You can’t scroll through TikTok, or Instagram, without seeing supermodels whose photos have been edited and who are promoting unrealistic beauty standards. I don’t like to see girls on my feed who are posing as fitness influencers, but they are actually promoting eating disorders such as “body-checking”. It’s something I wish I had known when I first started out: it’s OK not to want to see it or consume it. It’s okay to protect your body and image. A second thing I wish I had known is that not all people on social media are your friends. You may be young and impressionable, but not everyone on social media is your friend.

– Madeleine Maestre is a 18-year-old freshman at Santa Clara University – AP

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