The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a clinical report on the impact of social media use on children, adolescents and families. It urges parents to work on their “participation gap,” so that they can understand this new technology and relate to kids’ online challenges… and something researchers have termed “Facebook Depression.”
What do teens tell us about their online world?
“It’s real but it’s not real life. And that’s what people don’t understand. The pictures are real, the messages are real, but it’s not real life,” says Ellen, 19.
“Yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s hard to live up to everything online,” says Katherine, also 19.
On Facebook, anybody can look happy and popular – an online world in which competition and adoration seems to reign supreme. Experts say these shallow connections can fuel a rampant lack of compassion and empathy.
“It’s an inflated view of yourself. You think you’re better than you are, you think you’re superior to other people, you feel special, um, you lack real empathetic relationships. You can have lots of shallow relationships, but you don’t have the empathy or caring that makes long term relationships or positive long term relationships,” says Keith Campbell, Ph.D., professor at the University of Georgia.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on social media encourage families to talk about specific issues like cyberbullying, sexting and managing time online, and to develop a family online use plan, with an emphasis on citizenship, healthy behavior and what constitutes real friendship.
“The deep relationships, of course, are the buffers against anxiety, and when those aren’t there, when people run into problems, they don’t have something to fall back on, and that leads to stress,” adds Dr. Campbell.
What We Need to Know
Let’s face it…social networking websites have become the primary communication tool for teenagers today. As of September 2009, 73% of online American teens ages 12 to 17 used an online social network website, a statistic that has continued to climb upwards from 55% in November 2006 and 65% in February 2008. While there’s no doubt that teens know how to use these communication networks, do they truly understand what can be seen and by whom? Internet and social networks are public spaces and anyone, including parents, college admissions officers, potential employers, and even predators, can see what’s posted online.
What Do You Think?
- Knowing that anyone can see your posts, photos, etc… online, are you going to update what you have posted online? Why? Why not?
- Staying off of a social networking site for a week seems almost impossible. Why do you think that is? Is it possible? How might you benefit from a little downtime?
- Social networks do provide an efficient means of communicating but at what cost? Is everyone included? Do you think they are more helpful or harmful in day-to-day communication with your friends? Why?