Teens on Social Networking

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Maybe the single most powerful force in our society today is our media. It never sleeps, it has something to say about almost everything, and it has an amazing influence on virtually every aspect of our lives. It may be that success or failure in any endeavor depends on the media it creates and the success or failure of that media. In response to the growth of media, society has come to depend on media to tell us what we think or what we should be thinking about important issues that include how we see ourselves and others. Media (too often) defines how we come to understand profound issues that involve race, gender, ageism, politics and economics. Given the devolving power of media to send messages, and influence out thinking and active responses to the positive and negative messages sent, it is greatly disconcerting to realize that media’s greatest influence may be among our teenagers and pre-teens.

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I’m remembering when I was a little girl playing with my Dad’s cell phone. It was small and it flipped open and closed. He tried to keep that phone out of my reach, but to me it was a toy and I was ever-ready to handle that phone once he put it down. Back then a phone was just a phone. It was different from its predecessor in that there was no cord attached to it. It was portable and you could make and receive phone calls on it.

Technology has moved us forward since then. Now you use your phone to do many, many other things, in addition to making a call. As an example, when I got older, I got my own cell phone and a camera for Christmas. Now my phone is also a camera, and it takes better pictures than my camera ever did.

This evolution in technology helped the proliferation of the internet and the advent of social media. New and innovative ideas like websites and applications enabled users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. It could be said that social media has taken over our society. Social media is a way to communicate, express yourself, and stay updated with what is going on in the world. These are all positive things.

All of these good things however can become corrupted when we allow ourselves to exist in a place of unreality. Social media makes it easier to compare our lives to those of others, which allows us the opportunity to augment the truth of our lives, to conform to an image of someone else’s imagination. These are often not good things. The internet can be both.

Social media can be especially impactful with teenagers and pre-teens. For sure, those years are a time in our lives when we are concerned with self-image, fitting in and getting along. Teens and pre-teens are especially vulnerable and naive during these years, and susceptible to outside ideas and influences. Too many of these influences are negative.

Teens and pre-teens are often the focus of advertisers who sell their products and ideas through social media. In addition, all of these influences are delivered with a speed that diminishes the opportunity for timely consideration and/or thoughtful deliberation in their decision making. There is lots of data to confirm the impact of advertisers using social media to influence teens and pre-teens.

In a single day, teens and pre-teens are exposed to over 3,000 advertising views

In response, teenagers spend $155 billion per year. Children 12 years old and younger spend another $25 billion, and both groups influence perhaps another $200 billion of their parents spending per year.*(Mia- this data is from: PEDIATRICS Vol.118 No.6 December 2006, pp. 2563-2569).

Media and advertisers using social media now determines for our teens and pre-teens what is Normal. The proliferation of media and advertising sets the standards for teens in everything from food to behavior.

The organization named Power Surge produced an internet video which featured short interviews from teens and their perspective of media influences in their lives. The first of these is a young woman whose name is Karla:According to the media? Well condoms are normal, alcohol is normal, intimate physical relationships are normal, dressing like rock stars and in movies is normal, and not dressing up to par makes you second class. **(Mia- the citation for this is:POWER SURGE, 2006. The Media, Media International)

My grandfather was a motivational speaker who was in great demand for his dog and pony show. I went with him to one of his presentations when I was in high school, having never seen him work before. We were at a middle school in Pomona. Pops asked a student to join him on the stage. The boy was 13 years old, a Latino student in the 8th grade and agreed to play Jeopardy with Papa. He asked the boy to finish the following phrase: You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to? The student volunteer filled in the phrase correctly by responding: McDonald’s. The next student selected was a 13- year old Latina, also in the 8th grade. She was going to play Double Jeopardy and her question was harder. She was asked to identify who this phrase belonged to: Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. She also replied correctly with McDonalds. As a final act of participation, the students were asked if they had ever been to the principal’s office. Neither of them had encountered the principal, and neither of them knew her name.

There is evidence that says social media is bad for our mental health because ultimately we compare ourselves to each other which can lead to low self-esteem and a way to escape our reality rather than facing it. There is other literature that suggest that as a society, we are already hooked on the internet, and like with other addictions, it is not going to go away anytime soon. Social media has consumed us at every level: in politics, business and socialization, while simultaneously inspiring things like cyberbullying and online harassment.

Then last, social media takes over lives and causes stress. It seems that we become stuck with a particular app. or device and depend on it all the time, without realizing that we are not developing any sort of interaction skills, thereby changing our relationships with real people.

Vaguely, I remember a time when we used to talk around the table at dinner. It seems that back then, everyone had something to say and we were trying to say it all at the same time. But I have witnessed the change. There is hardly ever real conversation around the table anymore. Too often we are not able to even have dinner at the same time. In restaurants, it is not uncommon to see a whole family engaged with their individual phones, but not engaged with each other. It seems that we have lost a lot with the advent and utilization of social media. We need to find a way to restore some of what we lost.

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Teens on Social Networking. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from
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