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The Real-life Problems of Online Activity

Society has never been so fortunate to live in such a technologically advanced world. Being able to access any information within seconds, along with having the ability to be in contact with friends and family who live anywhere in the world has shaped everyday life. Raising the next generation of kids has its new challenges to it since their lives now are heavily influenced by the internet. However, internet and social networking sites can impact how kids live their own lives and find their own sense of self. Adolescents can develop problematic internet use to create a fake persona of themselves online that lead to negative consequences with their offline relationships.

More kids are using technology than ever before. In fact, on average, adolescents spend at least 9 hours on social media. Furthermore, a study done by the Pew Research Center from March 2018 to April 2018 of 743 U.S. teens and 1,058 U.S. parents of teens found that 54% of teens spend too much time of their cellphones. As for social media, 41% of these teens think they spend too much time on it. Almost three-quarters of the parents in the study felt that their teen is too directed by their phone to even hold a conversation. Even more shocking is that 56% of teens feel “loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious” when they are not around their phone. These feelings can become so intense that teens can show signs of internet addiction.

Adolescents who develop an addiction to the Internet can be compared to those with an addiction to substances like alcohol and drugs, according to The Council’s Blog. The Internet can give off “some of the same dopamine rewards” that effects “the pleasure systems of the brain.” Social media can also alleviate any stress teens may be having as it is an easy way to fill the “human need for stimulation,” thus making it addictive. In addition, CNN reports that a study done by UCLA scanned 32 teenager’s brains when using an app that was like Instagram. It found that “certain regions of the brain became activated by ‘likes’, with the brain’s reward center becoming especially active.” This ultimately motivates teens to use social media more. Furthermore, Lauren Sherman, the lead author of the study explains how the reward center is more sensitive in adolescents, which explains why social media is so popular.

More importantly, children who have experienced childhood abuse are more likely to problematically use the internet as a coping mechanism to feel a connection with others. These children who have experienced emotional abuse or physical or emotional neglect are more at risk of developing an insecure attachment or avoidant attachment anxiety.  This can deprive these kids of developing healthy relationships in their offline lives, thus making them susceptible to develop a problematic internet use that enables them to create a false persona to connect to others.

Childhood maltreatment, according to a research report from Springer Science and Business Media called “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development,” can cause future anxiety and even PTSD. These feelings can overwhelm adolescents, and they may feel that the internet is the only way to cope with their feelings. Since these kids don’t have the ability to go to a trustworthy adult to confide in, they will use social media to escape their hardships. In order to find some sort of connection with others, they will create a false persona of themselves to build a more sufficient self-image. Creating a fake persona does not take hard work, but it can be harmful to the individual. The main reason a fake persona is created is to be relatable to others so that friendships and relationships can be formed. Social media sites allow adolescents to post whatever they want, therefore it is easier to share whatever they want, even if it is false information. Moreover, this misinformation may not be linked to their true feelings.

According to Springer Science and Business Media, if teens don’t share false information online, they may just self-disclose only the information they want. Teens can decide how they want to present themselves, and this can lead to how high or low their self-esteem is by the reactions of others. Furthermore, Springer Science and Business Media explains how online self-disclosure is a “rehearsal” for offline self-disclosure. Depending on who the teen’s audience is, they will practice what information they want to reveal about themselves. So, if they are taking to a close friend online, they will most likely to reveal more information about themselves face to face. However, in general, their own profiles overall do not “portray their ‘ideal selves’.”

Although adolescents can spread false information about themselves to make themselves more extroverted and appealing to others, social media can actually be a good way to interact with others as long as it’s used appropriately. It can help their self-identity by allowing them to “join Internet ‘groups’ reflecting on the aspects of their identity that they wish to explore or deepen” according to Springer Science and Business Media. When teens use these social networking sites for good, they can develop new and authentic friendships. They can even connect with others who come from different backgrounds to create deeper connections.

Adolescents need to find a way to connect to others without fear of rejection. Whether this fear is because of not having similar interests to their peers or because of past traumas, social media use is starting to become a problem. The internet is supposed to be a place where people can share their lives with one another, but it slowly but surely is becoming an outlet to ignore one’s true feelings by creating a fake identity to create a whole new person they want to see themselves as. There needs to be a better support system for all children and young adults, regardless of their past experiences of trauma or mental illness. Social media is a part of everyday life, but the fact that it is starting to harm the next generation of kids is becoming dangerous for the future. The internet should be a place where adolescents are free to express themselves and not feel the pressure to act like others around them. Creating a sense of self is essential to the way each child develops, and social media may be a harmful place where false personas are taking over.

References

East, S. (2016, August 01). How does social media affect your brain. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/12/health/social-media-brain/

Jiang, J. (2018, September 14). How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions/

Lester, H. (2018, February 09). Technology Misuse, Abuse, & Addiction Among Teenagers. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.councilonrecovery.org/technology-misuse-abuse-addiction-among-teenagers/

Shapiro, L., & Margolin, G. (2013, May 04). Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10567-013-0135-1

 

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