Social Media a Positive Force – It Can Be
In a study of US 13-17 year-olds’ relationship with social media, very intense sharing was found: ranting, gossiping, flirting, planning, and following the news on Snapchat, Instagram, and several other apps that aggressively compete for teens’ attention. The teens said they are well aware of the potential for distraction and manipulation, but most said that social media make them feel less lonely, less depressed and more confident. This study brings much-needed nuance to our understanding of how social media impacts our most vulnerable children.
Overall, social media remains a positive force in their lives – connecting them, as it does all of us, to information and people who provide support. The weak spot that teens themselves acknowledge is setting limits on social media and this is where I believe the adults in their lives need to step up.
This starts with getting them to silence their phones while talking with others, and certainly not checking their phone while someone who has made the time to be directly in front of them is having a conversation. It expands to doing homework and particularly work that requires focus and concentrated effort. Sleeping is also a no go common-sense recommendation, along with requiring that teens or tweens charge their phones outside the bedroom at night.
Educators should set clear policies on the use of social media during the school day, i.e. not in class time.
This is a challenging space but one that requires clarity about what the expectations are and certainly not assuming that young people will make the right decisions if it is left up to them on their own. They need guidance and reinforcement of why it is that these restrictions are in place. Optimally this needs to be front end loaded and not be reactionary when the habit is already formed.