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Teenager charged for allegedly making threats towards South Carolina high school on social media

Social media
Social media

A 16-year-old was arrested after allegedly making threats against a Dillon, SC high school, according to officials with the Dillon Police Department.

Officers said on Monday a social media post allegedly threatened Dillon High School students, staff, and faculty with possible violence.

In anticipation of the threat, authorities made sure there was a large law enforcement presence at schools Tuesday morning.

The 16-year-old was arrested Monday night and transported to Columbia where he is currently being held.

During the 125th session of the South Carolina General Assembly, the South Carolina Social Media Regulation bill was introduced. If passed into law it would ban teens from social media sites unless approved by their parents.

The bill would also require companies to prevent minors from viewing content that encourages self-harm, force, school property destruction, or displays visual depictions of sexual conduct.

The American Psychological Association reports that social media has an added effect on teenagers due to the potential risks when puberty delivers an onslaught of biological, psychological, and social changes.

"There is a lot of good that can come from social media. The problem is, algorithms can also lead you down rabbit holes,” said Mary Alvord, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Maryland and adjunct professor at George Washington University, and a member of the APA panel.

According to research, technology is expertly designed to pull people in. With features such as “like” buttons, notifications, and videos that start playing automatically make it incredibly hard to step away. At the extreme, social media use can interfere with sleep, physical activity, schoolwork, and in-person social interactions.

“The risk of technologies that pull us in is that they can get in the way of all the things we know are important for a teen’s development,” said Jacqueline Nesi, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University who studies technology use in youth.

According to a 2023 NPR special report, virtually every teen has a cellphone, many have access to guns, and many are coping with mental and emotional health crises. Some say it's not surprising that violence features so heavily in children's social media feeds.

"Social media puts everything on steroids," said the Rev. Cornell Jones, the group violence intervention coordinator for Pittsburgh.

Young people feel the same kind of dopamine emotion as adults when their social media posts are liked, commented on, and shared as a sense of validation.

"We are dealing with young people who don't have great self-esteem, and this 'love' they are getting on social media can fill some of that void," Jones said. "But it can end with them getting shot or going to the penitentiary."

Last year, the American Psychological Association issued recommendations for teenager’s use of social media.

"Right now, I think the country is struggling with what we do around social media," says Dr. Arthur Evans, CEO of the APA.

The report, he says, marshals the latest science about social media to arm people "with the information that they need to be good parents and to be good policymakers in this area."

Marcus Flowers is an award-winning content producer who specializes in various topics.