Who to Blame for Adolescent’s Social Media Use
Social media is its own type of world. Adolescents can connect to their friends by sharing pictures or witty remarks with one another through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. However, with this power comes danger. Teens don’t realize that they take social media for granted and don’t understand the consequences for their actions. Just because teens are the ones in charge of their activity online, doesn’t mean they should be responsible for their mistakes. They need a role model who can overlook their activity to make their they are being safe and careful with the information they share online. However, kids who come from abusive families are less likely to have this type of role model to help them. Without guidance, these teens are more likely to spread false information about themselves to conform to others, which can ultimately lead to lower self-esteem as they are not representing who they truly are. If their parents aren’t able to be with them during this time of their life, their development can be negatively altered.
Teens tend to be private from their parents as they don’t disclose everything that happens in their lives. The internet is a big factor in their life, and it can help them create their own identity and find out what type of person they want to be. Pamela Wisniewski of the University of Central Florida argues since teens are the ones engaging in social media, they should be the ones to deal with the risks of it. These adolescents are naïve to what they put out on the internet and are still learning how to protect themselves. Wisniewski argues that risk-taking is something that teens should engage in to understand the consequences of their actions online, such as strangers trying to communicate with them or spreading false information about themselves. Making mistakes is a part of growing up, and teens need to learn from their own mistakes to understand the value of privacy. Wisniewski states the adolescent resilience theory shows that teens can still live their lives and be successful despite the hardships they come across online. More importantly, Wisniewski thinks that “Teens are often able to cope and resolve negative online experiences without intervention from their parents.” If they don’t involve their parents, Wisniewski states these adolescents can learn to set boundaries, feel empathy towards others, and resolve arguments.
The few adolescents who experienced childhood maltreatment such as emotional abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect, have don’t have the option to get their parents involved in their internet endeavors even if they wanted to. Furthermore, when adolescents suffer from this type of maltreatment, they can develop attachment issues which makes them unable to trust others and form new relationships. This makes them turn to the internet, as it acts as a safe haven for kids to reach out and connect to others. A research report from Psychiatry Research called “Childhood maltreatment and problematic social media use: The role of attachment and depression” states that according to the attachment theory, kids who had abusive relationships with parents aren’t able to form healthy relationships with people in their future. A study done with 1,029 students in North West England showed that out of 327 people who experienced some type of childhood maltreatment, 84% of them developed an insecure attachment that prevented them from forming new relationships because of negative trust issues towards other people. Whether it is anxious attachment where kids have negative self-esteem that results in the inability to create new relationships or avoidant attachment where kids distrust others and are unable to form close relationships, the common result is problematic internet use. Social media acts as a safe haven for these kids to escape their real-life hardships and find belonging, as their parents don’t provide that comfort already, therefore the presence of a role model is not available to them. Without a trusted adult, internet behaviors can get worse.
Children need a positive parent-child attachment so that they can become more responsible for their online endeavors. A research report from Telematics and Informatics called “Parents vs peers’ influence on teenagers’ Internet addiction and risky online activities” has found that “Weak parental-attachment was reported to be a risk factor for children’s risky online activities and internet addiction.” If kids have a strong relationship with their parents, then kids will participate in less “risky online activities.” Parents should then play an active role in their kid’s life to make sure their kids are safe on the internet. A study of 733 adolescents from ages 10 to 18 found that the more kids communicate with their parents, the less dangerous online activities occur. Without parent involvement, kids can prevent positive growth development if they just try to learn from their own mistakes.
When these kids use social media to feel a sense of comfort, they may spread false information about themselves so they can gain more friends and people to rely on. However, a research report from Springer Science and Business Media called “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” suggests that “adolescents have the option of choosing what self-identifying information to provide,” and that social media may influence development in a negative way if adolescents share false information. It is much easier to talk to people online as when someone is behind a computer screen, it is easier to be post anything that comes to mind. Moreover, since these kids don’t have a role model that can check up on them and tell them right from wrong, they won’t know what is best for them. This can lead to negative consequences as seen with the hyperpersonal model for communication, which the research report from Psychiatry Research explains “that adolescents engage in selective self-presentations online,” and that other user’s impressions and reactions of them influences their real-life behavior. This means that these adolescents may alter their identity to conform to others and not present their true personalities online, therefore creating a false persona and selecting the parts of themselves they want to share with others. Teens need a positive role model who can guide them to make the right decisions and present themselves online in an authentic way.
As social media is becoming more prevalent in adolescents’ lives, it is important to also consider the role parents play in their children’s internet use. Although Wisniewski proposes a “teen-centric” approach to online protection, it won’t be as good as if parents were to be involved with their children’s online behavior. Just because teens can pick and choose their friends and self-monitor themselves, doesn’t mean they should. Parents need to communicate with their kids so their attachment with them will become more trustworthy. However, this isn’t possible with kids who were raised by abusive parents. It is important for all kids to be safe online, and it starts with parents monitoring their children’s use. It is time to start taking responsibility for our children’s actions.
Chin-Hooi Soh, P., Wai Chew, K., Yeik Koay, K., & Hwa Ang, P. (2017, November 05). Parents vs peers’ influence on teenagers’ Internet addiction and risky online activities. Retrieved December 04, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0736585317301491
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
Wisniewski, P. (2018, March). E Privacy Paradox of Adolescent Online Safety: A Matter of Risk Prevention or Risk Resilience? Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=8328977&tag=1
Worsley, J. D., McIntyre, J. C., Bentall, R. P., & Corcoran, R. (2018, May 25). Childhood maltreatment and problematic social media use: The role of attachment and depression. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178117318668