How and why teenagers’ social media habits are changing


I came across two interesting articles this week about how teenagers’ social media habits.

They are:

Teens have a smart reason for abandoning Facebook and Twitter

Social Media and Secret Lives of American Teenage Girls

In Teens Have A Smart Reason for abandoing Facebook and Twitter, the author – Felicity Duncan – writes:

For a few years now, alarms have been sounded in various quarters about Facebook’s teen problem. In 2013, one author explored why teens are tiring of Facebook, and according to Time, more than 11 million young people have fled Facebook since 2011. But many of these articles theorized that teens were moving instead to Instagram (a Facebook-owned property) and other social media platforms. In other words, teen flight was a Facebook problem, not a social media problem.

Today, however, the newest data increasingly support the idea that young people are actually transitioning out of using what we might term broadcast social media—like Facebook and Twitter—and switching instead to using narrowcast tools—like Messenger or Snapchat. Instead of posting generic and sanitized updates for all to see, they are sharing their transient goofy selfies and blow-by-blow descriptions of class with only their closest friends.

In a series of interviews with 80 American college students, Duncan says “we may be seeing the next evolution of social media,” in that teens are moving from Facebook to Shapchat. Duncan sites a few primary reason for the Facebook flight:

1. As social media usage has spread beyond the young, social media have become less attractive to young people. Few college students want their parents to see their Friday night photos.
2. College students are well aware that nothing posted on Facebook is ever truly forgotten, and they are increasingly wary of the implications. Teens engage in complex management of their self-presentation in online spaces; for many college students, platforms like Snapchat, that promise ephemerality, are a welcome break from the need to police their online image.
3. Increasingly, young people are being warned that future employers, college admissions departments, and even banks will use their social media profiles to form assessments. In response, many of them seem to be using social media more strategically.

The Time magazine article, Social Media and the Secret Lives of American Teenage Girls, serves as compliment to Duncan’s article. It speaks to the dangers of social media among teenage girls, and is based on 2 and 1/2 years of research that Nancy Jo Sales did for her book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teen­agers..

Upon visiting 10 states and talking to more than 200 girls, Sales writes:

It was talking to girls themselves that brought me to the subject of social media and what sexualization is doing to their psyches. How is it affecting their sense of self-worth? The tweens and teens I spoke to were often very troubled by the ways the culture of social media was exerting influence on their self-images and their relationships, with both friends and potential dating partners. They were often highly aware of the adverse effects of the sexualization on girls—but not always sure what to do about it.

There are some very complex and complicated issues that Sales writes about in the article. She continues:

So it should come as no surprise that in this atmosphere, with the new technology available, sexting and sharing nudes have replaced other forms of intimacy. And it’s girls—our daughters, granddaughters and nieces—who are most at risk in this online environment, which blends age-old sexism with a new notion of sexual liberation through being provocative.Girls who post provocative pictures often suffer slut shaming on- and offline. Girls are more often targeted in cyberbullying attacks that focus on their sexuality.

Broadly, while teens for finding new ways to connect with their strongest ties in networks, in lieu of the wider social media platforms like Facebook, there’s no doubt that the impact of social media on sexuality has taken on some devastating consequences. As adults, and parents, we have a responsibility to keep our daughters and sons safe, and to teach them respectful use of social media.

Go here to read an overview of Teens, Social Media and Technology via the Pew Research Center.

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