We love the internet, as a company which started on social media, we always say we live on the internet. And we also believe Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are godsent to kids and teens who want to get in touch and know what is going on with their friends or relatives. By just opening an app or a website, they can communicate with and learn about all the people who are important to them (at least those who are signed in to the same network).
Teens can connect with friends and family who live far away. They can socialize and keep in touch with friends, share pictures, music and videos and play fun games.
They can connect with wholesome organizations, businesses and individuals. They have access to great, educational material. They can learn, they can grow, they can see parts of the world and other cultures that they may never have a chance to see otherwise.
In fact social networking makes teens more peer-based. Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online. They interact and receive feedback from one another. They are motivated to learn more from each other than from adults. Teachers and adults are no longer the only sources of knowledge. It makes kids more networked than ever. It is easier for kids to make friends with people all over the world, most of whom they will never ever meet without these technological advances.
We communicate and interact more than ever.
But there is a dark side to social networks. This is something that every teen with a social network surfing mobile should know. We are not saying quit social media, but this an eye opener and something to keep you up on your toes.
- 40 per cent of teens have had someone put up a negative post about them on social media that could not be deleted.
- One in five teens feel worse about themselves as a result of what they see online from friends.
- About 40 per cent feel pressure to make themselves look good or try to be more popular through what they post.
This is understandable but to truly comprehend the social media experience of our teens means knowing they have dozens of choices. Facebook is certainly one but there is Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Kik, WhatsApp and sites you might not on the surface consider social media but are indeed so like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine, and gaming sites.
In the stats above, we alluded to pressure teens feel around their image on social media. A new condition has been identified for preteens and teens, coined Facebook Depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports this is depression triggered when kids devote quite a lot of effort to constructing and establishing a social media presence, then spend a great deal of time on the site(s), and feel unaccepted by their peers. The characteristics of the depression are similar to traditional depression and include symptoms such as anxiety, withdrawal, and engaging in risky self-destructive behaviors.
The risk of this type of depression goes up with “surveillance use.” This is when one is constantly checking on what friends are up to and making comparisons with one’s own life. Since 80 per cent of teens check their devices hourly and 22 per cent go onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times daily, the chances of social media depression rising unfortunately look very likely (Clinical report–The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families).
The one common bad effect of social media is addiction – the constant checking of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media updates. Experts believe that knowing what’s going on with friends and what they are thinking or feeling can be addicting. Researchers at UCLA’s Brain Mapping Center has found that being appreciated in social media through “likes” was seen in brain scans to activate the reward centers of the brain. This reward circuitry is particularly sensitive during adolescence, and this may partly explain why teenagers are more into social media.
For kids and teens, knowing how many people like what they posted, how many followed (or unfollowed) them, and knowing what people say about them also leads to compulsive checking. This addiction to social media could disrupt other worthwhile activities like concentrating on schoolwork, reading or engaging in sports. The heaviest social media users admit to checking their social media feeds more than 100 times a day, sometimes even during school.
DoSometing.org, “one of the largest organizations for young people and social change”, lists several bad effects of social media, which includes sleep disorder, depression, addiction, 24/7 stress, isolation, insecurity, and fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO or the fear of missing out on something important (like their friends’ jokes, parties, activities and other ways of having fun) leads to depression and anxiety in teen social media users, according to a survey done by the Australian Psychological Society. FOMO is one of the main reasons for teenagers’ heavy use of social media.
For kids who crave attention, Facebook and other social network becomes a venue for them to act out. These kids may make inappropriate statements, pictures and videos that could ultimately harm them. Also, posts and materials that are published online tend to be permanent and may haunt them in the future.
Educators also note that for kids and teens in social networks, there are no spelling and grammar rules. In fact it is cool to misspell and not make sense. Less sophisticated children will find it hard to differentiate between social networking communication and real world communication. In fact many teachers are complaining that social networking communication with misspellings and lack of grammar are seeping through student’s school writings.
So what do you do if you find out you are obsessed to social media?
Spend more time in real-life friendships and activities – Real face-to-face interaction is deeper and warmer than online friendships. You learn more social skills in relating to and having face-to-face communication with friends. Online friendships does not teach you to listen to subtle vocal cues, interpret body language, and adapt to different personalities – skills that are often important to survive in the real world. If you feel anxious about how your friends seem to be living a better life than you, remind yourself that the images and postings of friends are curated, and does not represent the whole story of friends’ life, and they are probably just sharing the best parts. Spend less time scrolling your feed if it makes you unhappy.
Social media represents not just a way to establish and maintain relationships but is a “mirror” of sorts of the teen themselves about who they are and how they are seen by others. These are central areas of importance to youth and therefore make them vulnerable to risk.
As in everything, use social networking in moderation. It cannot take the place of real-life relationships and other worthwhile pursuits like reading books and sports.
We love you!
Thanks to: Huffpost, RaiseSmartKid for some content.
Photography: @luel, @bellystudios