By Dr. Nancy Mramor
Some use social networking to connect and learn about each other. It’s intended to be a way for people to stay in touch easily and create greater connection.
Why is social networking a problem for young people?
1. The teenage years are a sensitive time when kids are highly impressionable and in need of validation about their worth, especially from peers. They need to continually know:
How they are fitting in
What their status is
If they are being validated while fear they won’t be
Their social media worth; kids equate their worth with likes and comments.
2. They seek feelings of Competence and connection
Everyone wants to connect. Your posts and the degree of disclosure can be predicted by Self-Esteem
Low Self-Esteem users share to gain acceptance (post to gain).
High Self-Esteem users want to be popular with inner circle (post to gain and maintain).
Both post for connection.
3. For both teens and adults greater competence results in less use
Excessive levels of use are the issue – they are a red flag for possible addiction, low self-esteem and mental health issues. Whether a person feels competent or not determines how much they use social media for self-esteem validation. Insecurity causes more use for approval seeking.
The use can backfire and create more insecurity through:
Comparisons that you see as being above you.
Judging yourself against those with high social networking activity.
Photo or tag exclusions.
Less Extroversion from reduced esteem.
Social Media Side Effects
Facebook, still the most used site (although there is a slight 2% decrease in use), meets many of same needs as face-to-face interactions.
Social networks complement real relationships. When we meet someone we quickly assess whether we want to continue the conversation through inferring his or her attributes. On facebook it’s the same; yet in life and on Facebook you can only have so many close friends.
If you use it to compete or seek out self-esteem you are at risk
Each comment has a high potential to make an impact and the positive feelings that they get from the connection becomes addictive. Teens feel alienated and lost when they don’t have their devices. The stability of self-image hinges on having the feedback. To be able to get constant feedback on whether your comment was liked is addictive. The Illusion of real life interactions can lead to addiction (similar to media addiction, illusionary relationships seem more real than real ones). Need for Self-Esteem can create addiction (University of London Study)
High social network users include those with:
A need to belong for collective self-esteem.
High level of sociability.
These factors in combination may lead to addiction.
Alcohol related content on line caused higher estimations of college drinking norms. It comes with a risk factor due to the need to fit in.
Depression is associated with the quality of social interactions not the quantity. Negative social interactions resulted in more depressive symptoms for those who ruminate, and spend a lot of time talking about their problems, can’t let their feelings go, or don’t have enough confidence to let it go.
Anxiety occurs when you can’t check in and FOMO (feeling of missing something) occurs.
Feeling of missing out causes anxiety due to not knowing if peers are moving forward without them.
Or even worse, talking about them with negative gossip or mean remarks.
So they check compulsively.
Are they getting likes?
Are friends doing things without them?
There is a relationship between how many times teens check their media and their stress levels.
Especially if they are receiving unwanted sexually explicit mails and texts… and fear reporting it to an adult due to legal repercussions for the person sending.
And the resulting negative response from peers.
Used to be break-ups were private, but now sexts go out for revenge and humiliation. And once seen the photos can’t be undone. Usually sexts sent by exes.
Exaggerated Facebook identities (Penn State and Girl Scout study, Kate Fagan, ESPN)
74% of girl scouts admitted that they tried to make themselves look cooler online.
Measures of success appearance and accomplishment are typically used rather than inspiring people with your genuine self.
There’s more control over identity portrayed online than in real life
Identity is important in Facebook activity for attracting likes and friends.
Likelihood of realistic but exaggerated profile.
Lack of safety with other’s false profiles, targeting teens.
Hook-up occur on social networks like Tinder (age limit is 13), which is just for casual hooking up rather than relationships.
Kids may be on social networks you may not even know about, where teens are targeted.
Cyber bullying (Gettysburg University Study)
Cyber bullying occurs because of:
A positive attitude toward cyber bullying.
Plus reinforcement through results and are predictors of more cyber bullying.
Anyone can be targeted.
Sleep (U of Cardiff in U.K. and a Study in Wales)
University of Cardiff study showed 20% of Kids “almost wake up” at night to check their social media, disrupting their sleep. Study in Wales showed one third of teens woke up at least once a week to send an electronic message.
Most teens need about 9.5 hrs. of sleep but are getting about 7.5.
More than half of teens said they go to school tired.
Heavy social media use and lack of sleep combined created mental health issues.
Studying while being distracted by social media results in lower test scores. Sustained attention gets better results.
Warning signs for parents
Changes in behavior, mood and sleep.
Keeping devices hidden or texting secretly.
Depression and anxiety.
Constant vigilance about possible negative feedback.
Changes in friends associated with sadness.
Complaints of cyber bullying – take them seriously!
Not supervising your kids’ social networks is like letting them play in the street unsupervised. The judgment center of the brain – prefrontal cortex – doesn’t fully develop until the mid 20’s. Encourage quality interactions both on facebook and real life. (Stony Brook University) These are the ones that make the biggest positive difference in your child’s life. Create an atmosphere of openness so that your kids don’t feel that you don’t trust them or that you are invading their privacy. They should use their devices openly.
Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts. Pay attention to what your kids are posting on computers, phones and ipads. Responsive parenting styles mediated negative social networking due to support and intervention. Kids don’t respond as well to punishment or stalking.No devices in bedroom – prevents secret use and compulsive checking, as well as waking in the night.Stop the barrage of perfect images by helping your child post one that lets your true self and personal light shine through.
Know what sites and apps your children are using, whom they’re talking to, and how they’re presenting themselves in their profiles and posts.Talk to teens about sites, dating sites, networks in general and check to see if they are safe. There are new sites popping up all the time and you can’t police them all, so conversations about what is safe and what is not are critical.Talk to them about the risks of getting swept up in peer pressure and not understanding the effects it will have on their ability to get a job or get into a school, or even damage their reputation.
Talk about imposters online.
Know what sites they go to and friend them on social networks so you can see what they post.
Get passwords so they can’t block you.
Decrease social media time so there is less use.
Encourage other ways to gain esteem, through active live participation in groups, sports, activities and interests.
If there have been violations of a significant nature, get software to monitor all activity in your home. Get a monitoring system such as Skydog so you can set parental controls and view what every member of a household is doing.
Trust your kids unless you have a reason not to, and begin to monitor if their behaviors begins to look suspicious, as though they are hiding something. Help them to rely on the inner resources, give parental support and keep social media as a supplemental activity.
Note: Young people in high school, college and college grads in their 20’s who are savvy tell me that they don’t even like the superficial nature of social media and the pressure to respond to texts so they don’t spend much time with it! They would rather take significant trips, study philosophy or spend time with close friends.
About Dr. Nancy Mramor
Nancy Mramor Ph.D. is a licensed clinical, media and health psychologist, specializing in radio, TV, technology and print as they impact you and your health. She has been featured on over 350 television, print and radio placements including CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, Fox, MSN Reader’s Digest, Woman’s World, Prevention, NBC Website and many others. She is an International Speaker who would love to speak to you about a program for your group. www.realconsciousliving.com
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