Hey! Look Where I Went!

I grew up in suburban New Jersey, surrounded by estates that houses bankers, lawyers, and doctors. Thus, by the time summer came around, there was one type of picture that clogged my Instagram news feed: vacations. Italy, France, and Disney World are a few of the hundreds (I am not kidding) of places where my friends vacationed. Ultimately, these photos exemplify a major gap in economic opportunity.

A Pew Research Center report was released in 2015 that examined the use of technology by American teenagers. This report identified how teenagers create, maintain, and establish relationships through social media and cell phones (Lenhart 1). First, this report identifies that 88% of American teenagers have access to a mobile phone while 73% have access to a smartphone (Lenhart 4). Sadly, these 12% of teenagers who do not have access to a mobile phone are from low-income families, and thus, are unable to participate in many conversations via social networking sites. This study conducted by Pew surveyed 1,060 children between the ages of 13 to 17 from various backgrounds such as socioeconomic status, location, and ethnicity, making this study pretty reliable.

Pew Research Center’s Teens Relationships Survey, Sept. 25-Oct. 9, 2014 and Feb. 10-Mar. 16, 2015 (n=1,060 teens ages 13 to 17).

In the summer of 2014, The Washington Post created, organized, and conducted research through a digital storytelling course. All thirty teenagers in the program were from low-income backgrounds and equally represented many ethnicities. The Washington Post was shocked to find that none of them had an Instagram, only one participant had Snapchat, and very few had a Facebook but considered themselves “inactive.” During a group interview, one of the participants told the one person who used Snapchat: “We are all ghosts on social media except you. You have Snapchat” (Martin and Ito).

“Ghosts.” That is the word that a young boy used to describe a group of thirty teenagers from low-income households. Now, it may seem that a person’s accessibility to social networking sites is not important, but this is an indicator of the ever increasing “digital inequity” of today’s generation (Martin and Ito). Ultimately, teenagers who lack this “digital fluency” to social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram will be a step behind of their more connected, and often wealthier, peers.

When Lenhart examined the over 1,000 children, many of them had mobile phones readily available to them. However, Martin and Ito targeted their study to children from low-income households, and found that Lenhart’s study may not reign true. This “digital inequity” causes the self-esteem of children from low-income households to possibly decrease, as they recognize that they do not have the same opportunity has many children who come from a higher socioeconomic status.

To be frank, I have fallen into this trap about posting content on social media that demonstrates the wealthy environment that I live in. I do not mean to do it maliciously, I just wanted to update my followers and friends regarding what was happening in my life. Now, however, my mindset has changed, as I recognize that there are millions of teenagers who do not have access to these social media platforms and who will be at a disadvantage come their adulthood. As a result of this notion, I will now think twice about posting a picture of me on spring break in Cancun, knowing that the opportunities I have been given are not given to everyone else and also knowing that my content may cause someone else to feel poorly about themselves.

Works Cited:

Lenhart, Amanda. “Teens, social media & technology overview 2015.” Pew Research Center 9 (2015).

Martin, Crystle and Mimi Ito. “How Wealthy Kids’ Use of Social Media Sets Them Up For a More Successful Future.” Washington Post, 6 May 2015.

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