An article published in early June highlighted the core woes of young people when it comes to social media and the use of cell phones.

“It’s so easy to look at your friends’ stories and feel this feeling of FOMO, of missing out and comparing yourself, like: ‘Oh, my friend just got a new car.’ It’s like this overwhelming sense of comparison. But the things that people post on social media, it’s just the highlight reel, like the 1% of their life that they want to showcase to other people,” said Bao Le, an 18-year-old freshman at Vanderbilt University in an interview with The Associated Press.

Despite hearing about the downsides of social media from adults, most of us don’t really understand the lived experience of young people who were forced to grow up in a world with the internet. “They didn’t get a phone handed to them as toddlers, just to keep them quiet in a restaurant. They didn’t join TikTok’s predecessor Musica.ly and do silly dances before they even learned to read,” the outlet described of adults in the Millennial generation and upwards.

If you remember landlines, videos, and the days before texting, you’re part of the last generations without near-constant access to the internet.

Stories From Young People

“My main point of advice would be not to take it too seriously. Be yourself. I feel like what I was exposed to as a 12-year-old was much more limited than what is accessible to 12–year-olds nowadays. Younger kids want to be who they idolize. And when the TikTok stars or the social media stars are 20, 18, 16, they’re going to want to be like them,” said Doreen Malata, 22. “You’re getting younger kids that are now obsessing over products and brands, and it’s just getting really hard to be young. And it shouldn’t be really hard to be young. You should be enjoying childhood. And we shouldn’t be rushing to grow up. It’s OK to be 12. It’s OK to be young. It’s OK to enjoy childhood.”

“It seems like it would be really easy to just put your phone down and stop scrolling. But it is not. If there was advice that I could give to my younger self, it would be to tell my parents to set up time limits for me — even though I would have never said that when I was starting social media. Also, I personally would not let my kid have TikTok. I would try to resist it as long as I could. It’s so addictive,” noted Sienna Keene, 17.

“I would say just don’t use it. It’s kind of a waste of time. You’re just having conversations about pointless things, random pop culture stuff. It just sucks your time. You’re not really getting anything out of it, just short-term satisfaction. It’s kind of meaningless. I know this is kind of outlandish, but I feel like there should be some sort of age limit because I don’t think children should be on the internet,” said Mikael Makonnen, 18.

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