Social Media can be used in a variety of positive ways including marketing your brand to future employers, expressing individual personality for job recognition, as well as staying connected to friends and family. But when used negatively it can create unwanted consequences. In 2017, Harvard University withdrew 10 student admissions offers due to the sharing of offensive images within what they thought to be a “private” Facebook group chat. Parents and researchers began wondering what drove such seemingly intelligent students to create and share such vulgar and reckless content.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the areas of teens’ brains that focus on reward processing and social cognition are comparably activated when they think about sex and money as when they view a photo receiving lots of likes or recognition. Adults and kids alike view likes, loves, comments and followers as a measurement of popularity. Teens’ values can become twisted in a world of instantaneous feedback leading to an “all about the likes” values rather than their real-life values. It can be concluded that teens seeking external validation develop an addiction to sensationalist engagement which may lead to the exchange of compromising photos or comments.
The question then becomes “how should parents and mentors effectively communicate appropriate use of social media.” Some believe there needs to be a shift in conversation away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety. Currently many parents try to monitor their teens’ social media accounts using apps such as TeenSafe, which links teens’ phones to their parents. It has been found that high-level of monitoring has led to the increase in secretive storage apps such as Vaulty, which provides users with the ability to hide photos and videos into a locked portal that requires password access to enter.
Teens fail to understand that within the world of web and phone communication nothing is considered private. Anything within a “private” chat can be easily screen shotted and shared across various platforms. Also in 2017, a bill was passed in the House that could make it a felony-punishable for 15 years in jail- if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves. While this falls into the “fear of being caught” category how do you believe we should educate teens to use social media in a positive manner?