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Around two years back, Harvard University announced that they were revoking the admissions of 10 students because they shared inappropriate and offensive images to what they thought was a private Facebook chat. As they explained their reasons, they told that these kids were posting images and memes about mocking minority groups, sexual assault, the Holocaust, child abuse, and many other things.
This situation left everyone wondering, “What were these kids thinking?”
This is because, over the past many years, teens have been given this image that making sarcastic memes and comments will make them look cool in the digital world. Such thoughts and continuous actions shouldn’t be taken as normal. There is always a reason why a teen is behaving this way.
As Ana has stated in her writings that where we think the digital world is bringing the sense of identity and maturity in our teens, it might be getting them into trouble as well. Sharing videos and memes just for the unending positive feedback loop results in poor decision making.
The digital world is a loop where teens face a problem and develop a new habit for dealing with that problem, making others uncomfortable. This cycle goes on and on, making our kids addicted to this social media world. This addiction and poor usage can result in various issues such as follows:
The digital world has provided a wide platform for teenagers for cyberbullying. You might have seen publicized suicides on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms due to cyberbullying. No matter how easy we take this, cyberbullying has also taken a serious state.
The practice of “sub-tweeting” has taken the bullying to the next level, thus impacting the kids the worst way. It is a publicly passive-aggressive way of calling out a person you don’t like to everyone in your following. It evokes sub-tweeting where everyone can interfere and jump onto the war, and thus, nothing is ever resolved.
With this happening around, obesity is also the main concern in cyberbullying. Teens like to upload their pictures on their social media accounts and even if they don’t, they are studying in the school where everyone is on social media. Their body image is always questioned and even made fun of if they are slightly overweight.
The teens who are already struggling with their body image, while facing this cyberbullying, often fall into depression and other mental disorders. This disturbs their mental as well as physical health thus leaving them in despair.
Either these sorts of kids end up being involved in the same practice i.e. cyberbullying to make themselves feel better, or they end being intensely disturbed. Either way, this doesn’t bring any positivity in their lives.
As explained in this article of HuffPost along with other challenges teens face in the digital world, sexting is becoming dominant day by day. It is a new form of sexual flirting where teens send their inappropriate pictures to each other and do the things they would never have the audacity to do in person.
Not only this practice keeps them in fantasies, but also they don’t seem to have the guts to handle the situation when their pictures are being circulated in a group of people. That is another form of cyberbullying or some sort of revenge but in this case, the embarrassment and shame of another level.
As a result of this mishap, the teens often fail to develop a healthy relationship in the future. The incident that happened to them at this age affects their whole lives. They develop this constant fear of being betrayed or mistreated.
Parents should educate their kids about these issues beforehand. Also, they should do all the efforts not to let their kids being involved in any of such activities. But if somehow, your kid has made the mistake, they should be with them and help them get out that sever mental state.
Here is an article by a teenager, June Eric about the addiction to mobile phones and social media in teens. She told us about her 14-year-old sister who would become anxious and stressful if the Wi-Fi went off. Most of the time, she said, “you are ruining my social life”.
She discussed her addiction to the cell phone when she lost it in the summer holidays. She felt devastated and lost as her phone was the only connection between her and her friends. She had this fear of missing out but within a few days, she was getting used to this. She even started enjoying her break from social media.
But she shared that there was still a sadness hovering deep inside her. She started missing all those social media engagements again and the fear of not even having any phone again scared her. On getting a new phone, she found a renewed sense of confidence.
This is the condition of most of the teens these days. They don’t seem to have a life away from the digital world. Even when they sleep, they keep their phones close to their pillows so that they don’t miss any new notification.
As discussed in APA article, it has been observed that even the presence of a mobile phone has proven to be a conversation breaker among two people. So, how can these mobile phones not interfere with the real-life relationships of teens?
Adolescence is a difficult period, and teens tend to feel like their parents or other adults don’t know them. With this feeling, when they go online and find so many people accepting them, they like it. They like that they can do anything and nobody is going to come to them individually.
Teens have admitted that they can be what they are in their social media connections. This is just a way of enjoying the fake freedom when actually they don’t have the confidence to face anyone. Moreover, teens are often seen to be pretending to be someone else.
These relationships that teens consider to be the real ones are making them distant from the ones that are actually with them. They seem to ignore their parents by saying, “you don’t understand me”. They do stuff that their online relationships prefer. And this has long-lasting effects on their whole lives.
Here is a very informative and very close to the reality TEDx talk by Baily Parnell about the unknown addiction of teens to digital media. She insisted that we don’t even know at many stages that we are addicted to it.
Research at Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders was conducted and it proposed that there are four manifestations of what we call problematic use of social media. These are gaming (for mostly boys), social media (for both), pornography, and then there is information bingeing that leads one click to another.
Dr. Rich and his colleagues proposed the idea that the interactive relationship between media and the teens is due to some underlying issues. According to him, “the technology is not the problem, it’s the interactivity that draws some kids in”.
He further explained that these problematic behaviors are the result of some underlying problems such as ADHT, depression, or social anxiety. He said that once the underlying problems are sorted out, these behaviors will become better on their own.
Dr. Ana Radovic, an assistant professor of pediatrics at a Children’s hospital in Pittsburgh, told us about her experience in dealing with teenagers who were severely depressed. She told about a teen who said that she enjoyed following a band on Instagram because it made her feel better. And, all of a sudden, Dr. Ana saw the pictures of the same band member self-harming and cutting his arm.
Dr. Ana further added that the kids who are depressed have negative cognitive bias. And this media interaction is very complex. It all depends on your mental level that how you interpret the things happening to you on social media. Or what you seek. Find out more about Dr. Rich and Dr. Ana’s findings in this article by Perri in The NewYork Times
Parents need to realize these things beforehand. They should keep an eye on the emotional health of their kids and give them complete support. Additionally, if the kid has already been so much involved in the social world, dig in with them and take them out. Now is the era to walk with the teens not ahead of them.
Also, parents can seek help from parental control apps such as Secureteen to know what their kids are going through in the digital world. They can monitor their activities, see what they are searching for. Through knowing their issues in the digital world, parents can help their kids overcome their issues.