Social Media: Understanding It and Finding Balance

There is really nothing all that new about social media sites if you consider that many of them were beginning to grow in popularity in the ’90s.  So why is the question of teens and social media a trending topic now?  The answer may be rooted in the fast advance of technology.

Social media has been around almost as long as the internet itself, but only with the implementation of technological devices and extensive and increased access to broadband internet connections has the ability to network on social media become the norm in homes, offices, and schools.  Now that technology is easier to understand, use, and access, social media is all the rage, especially among teenagers.

As it is with many other issues in society, there are two sides to the social media coin. True also is the fact that it is the limitless access to social media that produces the negative effects.  According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, children and teens are spending upwards of seven hours a day attached to and engaged in some sort of digital device. Over the last decade, there have been numerous studies to confirm that there are both risks, as well as a few benefits, for parents to be aware of as their teens take part in the current social media revolution.

The bad:
* Studies show that overuse of social media has a negative effect on grades.  Social media accessed on a cell phone is a serious distraction from schoolwork and the tendency to be connected at all hours of the day and night can disrupt sleeping patterns.
* According to research, excessive doses of social media may also predispose teens and young adults to psychological disturbances such anxiety and depression.
* In many studies, too much social media has been linked to increased narcissism, anti-social behavior, and aggression.
* Teens often put themselves at risk when engaging in social media by disclosing too much personal information.

The good:
* Limited networking on social media sites has shown to help teens develop empathy for their online friends.
* Introverts feel more inclined to exercise social skills behind the safety of a screen.
* Although not all students benefit from an online educational platform, studies find that many students are very successful in virtual learning environments.

A Parent’s Role in Social Networking

The reason that many adolescents go online to social media sites is to connect with friends.  Given this fact, the first thing a parent should evaluate is how they are connecting with their child.  An emotional bond is necessary in order to give your child the instruction and guidance they need.  In addition, there are many other ways parents can make sure their teens are engaging in social media in a safe and appropriate manner:

* Thoroughly evaluate each site your teen wants to join and set up an account for yourself.  Connecting with your teen on the site lets them know you are interested in what they are doing.
* Set time limits for all media including phones and computers.  Also, set a time when all media gets turned off.  This will prevent the receiving of messages in the middle of the night when your teenager needs to be sleeping.
* Talk to your adolescent about responsible internet practices and online etiquette.  Even their favorite sites have rules that must be obeyed.
* Make time for you and your teen to do offline activities together.  It’s important for your teen to spend time IRL (in real life).

Most experts agree that networking on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or My Space, is basically harmless.  As with many applications, the risk for teens comes with excessive and/or inappropriate use.  Social media can be a way to interact with friends in an informal and casual manner.  It can be an outlet for teens to express themselves, share interests, and converse with one another.  At the same time, parents should stay involved by talking to their teens about internet safety and monitoring the time spent on social media.  They should also scan the content of their teen’s social media sessions for any signs of harassment, cyber-bullying, or inappropriate conversations.

References:

American Psychological Association. “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids” Larry D. Rosen, PhD, California State University, Dominguez Hills.

” Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens Up Dramatically from Five Years Ago.” Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. 08 2011

About Melissa J. Murphy

Melissa Murphy is in the business of building self-esteem, instilling confidence, and restoring hope in those who have given up on life. She is currently completing her degree in psychology, and has worked as a life coach and faith-based counselor for more than a decade. By bringing her personal life experiences into her work, Melissa is able to help others survive their wounds, heal their pain, and live a life of success despite having incurred overwhelming emotional scars. For the last few years, she has discovered the joys of writing and has published a growing number of articles. Melissa currently resides in the Houston area with her husband and her two wonderful children.

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