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Study Finds Teens Use Social Media Due to Lack of Other Options

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posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 04:09 PM

If kids can’t socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd—full disclosure, a friend of mine—has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives.

What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”

It’s true. As a teenager in the early ’80s I could roam pretty widely with my friends, as long as we were back by dark. But over the next three decades, the media began delivering a metronomic diet of horrifying but rare child-abduction stories, and parents shortened the leash on their kids. Politicians warned of incipient waves of youth wilding and superpredators (neither of which emerged). Municipalities crafted anti-loitering laws and curfews to keep young people from congregating alone. New neighborhoods had fewer public spaces. Crime rates plummeted, but moral panic soared. Meanwhile, increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids’ after-school lives.


I was talking to my mom earlier, and asked her if she thought there was any evidence of changes in social norms between younger and older generations, and she brought up that she had read this article. I think the article points to more than the increase in social media use - which I think is definitely going to happen if there aren't other social options, as humans are social animals and socializing is an ingrained part of our development.

I want to immediately point out two things that I see when I read this study as a psychology major. For one, there seems to be a correlation between increased social media use and less in-person time, not causation. Even though the kids say they would rather meet face-to-face, the possibility remains that the social media use reduces their drive to fight their parents on the issue.

I think the article is interesting because it mentions that the study concluded that parents were becoming more totalitarian with their kids. I don't think this is limited to parents, schools seemed to install security measures like video cameras, metal detectors, prison fences and the like - and I watch as my neighbor lets his boy ride in circles in the apartment parking lot on his bike for 15 minutes a day as he watches, and that is about how much freedom the kid gets - like walking a dog or something.

It's not really that bleak, those two examples just happened to go together in a dark manner.

I'm sure there are more examples, and I'm sure that in this particular generational mash-up, micro-managing and lack of freedom could result in less critical thinking skills in younger folk - but the reality seems to be that humans are very adaptable and know what they want. Place your bets on that in the long run.

At the moment, who knows what's going on. I try to keep on top of changing social norms and such because I don't naturally catch on, so the only way not to be ostracized is all this damn analysis.

Seriously though, is there an advantage to a culture that changes year-to-year when in the past, ones could exist for thousands of years at a time? Maybe, although I seem to recall very similar passages from the time of Aristotle and Plato on a lot of these aspects. On the other hand, the reality is we are facing the most changes seen by humanity at once by a long shot (as far as we know). There could be some really weird historical stuff we don't know about.

The result, Boyd discovered, is that today’s teens have neither the time nor the freedom to hang out. So their avid migration to social media is a rational response to a crazy situation. They’d rather socialize F2F, so long as it’s unstructured and away from grown-ups. “I don’t care where,” one told Boyd wistfully, “just not home.”

Forget the empathy problem—these kids crave seeing friends in person.

In fact, Boyd found that many high school students flock to football games not because they like football but because they can meet in an unstructured context. They spend the game chatting, ignoring the field and their phones. You don’t need Snapchat when your friends are right beside you.

So, parents of America: The problem is you; the solution is you.

If you want your kids to learn valuable face-to-face skills, conquer your own irrational fears and give them more freedom. They want the same face-to-face intimacy you grew up with. “Stranger danger” panic is the best gift America ever gave to Facebook.

edit on 20pmSun, 20 Apr 2014 16:19:30 -0500kbpmkAmerica/Chicago by darkbake because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 04:26 PM
I'd be interested to see how the study would shape up if it accounted for college students, who tend to live/work/study in the same geographic location and literally walking distance from each other.

posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 04:53 PM
Interesting article and perspective that does seem accurate. Conditioned fear via media hype is a real concern and I personally know parents that are overprotective in general and especially online. They are worried about strangers online and predation.

I think there is more going on too though. Technology has enabled kids to communicate at a whim, anywhere and anytime, so the convenience should be factored in also.
Related bit:

Among themselves, in fact, kids tend to see technology as extending, rather than replacing, time with friends. When they have to be physically apart, they use e-mails, texts, IMs, and updates to stay in the loop. How else could they deal with interruptions such as bedtime? (Studies actually show there's a reason to have them leave the cell phones outside their rooms overnight -- the lure of its pinging is keeping up the already famously sleep-deprived demographic.) In fact, one set of researchers found that two of the three primary reasons adolescents texted were to make plans to get together and to schedule time to talk (the other was simply to chat). Most texting threads, the study noted, ended with them switching to a richer mode of communication, such as IM, phone, or face-to-face.

So the novelty of it all plays a part too I think, and texting is like having all your friends next door and one can just pop over and say hey because of the round the clock convenience. But it does seem kids still value deeper conversations. WIll texting make their thought process shrink though, and limit deep conversation and contemplation, which will only fuel the texting over talking?

"There was a real hunger on both sides -- kids and parents -- to have more face-to-face time," says Marian Merritt, an Internet-safety advocate for Symantec, maker of Norton computer-security products.

But it's instructive to see where the Pew parents placed the blame for the disconnect. Mostly white-collar and middle-class, they said technology had eaten into their family time by blurring the line between work and home. They were the ones glued to the computer, churning out that last report. (And probably sneaking in a little surfing after: Norton found that 47 percent of parents spend time on social networking sites, as opposed to 46 percent of their kids.)

"Kids are watching what their parents are doing and modeling that behavior," says Megan Moreno, M.D., a physician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, who sees adolescents as patients and has also studied their online habits. "The kids whose parents are texting and taking calls while their kids are talking? Those are the same kids who take phone calls during our office visits."

I wonder if parents today have less time to spend with kids trying to make ends meet, or has this not changed? Most families I notice are strapped with debt and distractions, and after a hard days work, many family members want to unplug, watch some tv/computer and not be bothered. It is legal escapism to try and maintain some degree of balance for themselves. but to the detriment of family time. The fact that adults too enjoy online/texting as well probably does influence the kids.

Texting, IMing, e-mailing -- anything, in fact, that's not immediate and face-to-face -- has a bonus, notes Nathan Freier, Ph.D., a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies how people interact with technology: It allows a buffer against awkwardness during what's already an awkward (and emotionally freighted) age.

"The more richly you engage someone, the more potential there is for embarrassment," he says. "Short text messages relieve kids of that anxiety." There are dangers, of course, in telling a girl you like her via text message -- notably, that she'll forward your note to the whole school. But for tweens, this pales next to the sinking feeling of having to watch her face as she decides how to reject you.
This makes sense too, communicating with a buffer to calm hormonal nerves and embarrassment. Rejection hurts less when it is not in person. The op is correct about less face time opportunity I suppose, but I think these other factors are part of it too. It makes me wonder about the future and will we as a society move closer to face to face communication or further away? Heck we will probably be all technologically telepathic at some point.

posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 05:03 PM
I completely agree that there is too much "sheltering" going on by parents these days. When I was growing up we actually "played." There seems to be an entire mentality that has been pervading America in the last decade or so, and it has slowly been escalating. It includes this sheltering, as well as teaching children to be mindless zombies, etc... The parents are solely to blame in my opinion. The sheer amount of stupid people, including parents, has astounded me many times, but I don't understand how so many people got to be so ignorant...?

posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 05:06 PM

edit on 20-4-2014 by Rikku because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 20 2014 @ 07:25 PM
a reply to: darkbake

Also teens like to share naked pictures of themselves and their homemade pornos.
Yes, mom and dad.. your 13 year old daughter is an internet porn star. Don't mind if she offs herself once the word gets out.

edit on 4/20/2014 by ItCameFromOuterSpace because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 24 2014 @ 03:43 PM
Well I guess this was a road to nowhere, nothing but crickets round here.

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