Posted on: October 29, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Jennifer Stout , left, vice president of global public policy at Snapchat parent Snap Inc., and Michael Beckerman, vice president and head of public policy at TikTok, testify before a Senate panel on Tuesday.


Generation Z has grown up on the internet, while that’s not inherently a bad thing, those of us on the older end of the generation are concerned about the younger ones. The internet is a vast space, but it is incredibly easy to find yourself in trouble.

As social media platforms grow throughout the years, so do the dangers, especially for children. Youth exposure to social media is becoming detrimental to their health and safety. 

Plenty of online communities are not safe spaces for children, and it is a daunting task to ensure children do not have access to non-age appropriate areas of media. Recently, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube have been facing legal trouble because of how their platforms fail to protect kids. 

Rosie Finnegan

Opinion Editor

Last week, a U.S. Senate subcommittee questioned leaders of these platforms, and “for nearly four hours lawmakers pressed the officials about how the apps have been misused to promote bullying, worsen eating disorders and help teens buy dangerous drugs or engage in reckless behavior,” according to NPR.

@jjaz0

A short sumary: All my female friends looked grown and their bodies changed, i wanted to be like them. Ended up hating my body #fyp

♬ Remember_you_mars – ✨Mars✨

As kids, we were warned about online stranger danger. But because of social media, it has become easier for strangers, bullies and predators to contact targets through direct messaging. 

In January 2020, YouTube created new policies for child safety – targeted advertising, notification bells, and other features became limited. However, we have to question whether these practices helped keep kids from watching damaging content online. Some platforms even offer “parental controls,” yet these can easily be disabled without the parent’s knowledge.

TikTok is the worst media platform of the three. The app asks if you’re 13 years or older before you are allowed to make an account. Yet, it is easy to lie about your age online. There is plenty of content on TikTok–including plenty of sexually explicit content–that children should never see. 

According to Business Insider, “70.9% of tweens and 87.9% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature” online, while “76.7% of tweens and 82.0% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.” 

It’s unfair to expect parents to constantly monitor their child’s internet activity, but it’s equally unfair to ask adults on the app to abandon their platforms and the communities they’ve found through them. Because TikTok has a powerful algorithm that shows posts based on what people routinely view, we can only hope most children are only being pushed age-appropriate posts. 

A bigger problem arising with social media platforms is the normality of teenagers openly sexualizing themselves on these apps. I’ve come across plenty of young girls getting defensive about this subject, saying you have no grounds to stop them if you’re not their mother. While I understand where they’re coming from, I implore these young girls (and boys too!)  to stop and listen to us older Gen Zs when we give them advice. 

Children on social media platforms have shown increasing rates of suicide, depression, bullying, mental health and body image issues. Online predator rates have also increased and are a major concern.

Social media platforms aren’t just unsafe for younger kids, but for college-age people too. I’ve heard stories from too many people my age about getting groomed by older men on the internet. Or even being put in a position to talk people they’ve never met out of harming themselves, and so many more awful things.

@vapikaa

i have a fun idea, how about we stop sexualizing minors 😀. i will block u 🥰

♬ original sound – Polo G

Yes, these experiences are hard to talk about and listen to, but it’s important to explain to children about the consequences of presenting yourself on the internet. Hindsight is definitely 20-20.

Social media platforms should have child safety as their main priority. I think it is fair to criticize these platforms for not putting a stop to these dangers sooner. Despite the grilling these companies received from lawmakers, it was hard to pin them down with a solid way of preventing children from being harmed from the internet. But action must be taken into creating a safer online environment for everyone. 

As Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., put it during the Senate hearing last week: “The problem is clear: Big Tech preys on children and teens to make more money. Now is the time for the legislative solutions to these problems.”