Jun 04 2012

Teens and the Internet: Social Media or behavioral risk?

Thinking about my Saturday, June 2, post, Blogging is Good for Teens, TennisMama, FatCat and I started Commenting about Facebook and the minimum age for signing up. Turns out, as FatCat stated, thirteen year olds can have Facebook accounts. Wow! I didn’t expect that.

So, I started nosing around, finding what’s out there by doing searches on BlogHer and Google. I wanted to discover what is available for working with children and teens on the Internet social media sites.

Protecting children is easier when they’re
physically and emotional dependent, but….

First, I checked BlogHer. Right away I found Kimberly’s post from February titled, “Mistakes Rookie Moms Might Make when helping Teens Navigate Facebook.” Wowser, was that an eye-opener. So much to learn and so little time before little fingers become bigger fingers able to type on a keyboard.

Click on the image to download this PDF.

Then I found a handy-dandy resource, The Parent’s Guide to Facebook, a great PDF with TONS of information you can download right here. This PDF is published and available on two very helpful sites set up to instruct parents on Internet supervision on the mobile and fixed Internet. Connect Safely says, “Smart Socializing Starts Here,” while the I Keep Safe Coalition encourages Digital Citizenship, “to see generations of the world’s children grow up safely using technology and the Internet.”

BlogHers are not the only ones aware of the changes in the way we reach out, relate to each other electronically and gather new information. Two new books caused The Washington Post to feature an article showcasing how we relate to the Internet and to each other.

New Books

The Post comments, “Net Smart,” arrives at the same time as a similarly minded title that is more narrowly focused on parenting in the digital age. James P. Steyer founded the San Francisco-based nonprofit organization Common Sense Media with the aim of helping parents figure out how to responsibly usher children into the digital era; his new book, “Talking Back to Facebook,” shares that goal.”

The book, “Talking Back to Facebook” helps parents
monitor their children in the Internet adult world.

The Post article continues, “To grab the reader’s attention, both authors put forward an array of startling numbers and statistics about our digital habits. The average 15-year-old receives nearly 3,500 texts a month, we learn from Steyer. On YouTube, Rheingold tells us, 35 hours of video clips are uploaded every minute.”

Wow! That’s hard for me to believe. All of that time focused on a screen, virtually experiencing life, rather than being in the real world. To me it’s like thinking there’s no reason to visit the Grand Canyon because one can got to the Internet and visit the National Parks web site. But, on the other hand, if that’s where our children are mentally, emotionally and socially, we need to know about it.

As time consuming as it is to hover, it is easier to
monitor Internet usage than clean up a bad situation.

What a sobering prospect this is. There is an avalanche of negative influence out there in cyberspace.  Any part of it can easily enter our children and infect our home lives. As I read in Kimberly’s article, even a slight default in supervising access to friends and strangers, can result in invasive harm. Hopefully, these web sites, books and articles will provide tools for enriching, rather than injurious, family Internet experiences.

Well, it’s always something.

I know I feel better armed to deal with it all.

How about you?

   

NaBloPoMo June 2012



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Jun 02 2012

People think the Internet is a place where teens can get into trouble.

They worry about what teenagers might be exposed to online, who might try to contact them, and acts of bullying. There is no doubt the openness of the Internet can bring risks to young people. But supervised participation in blogging is thought to be beneficial.

A recent study makes a case for how the Internet, despite its faults, is also a great space for teenagers to improve their mental health by reaching out to a responsive community while blogging.

Teens often feel isolated.
Supervised blogging helps them connect.

A team of researchers set out to see whether blogging could help alleviate social distress and low self-esteem. Over the course of 10 weeks, a group of students kept a blog. The students who had public blogs with space for comments, and who wrote about distress in their lives, saw the most mental improvement over that period. On the other hand, students who kept private diaries with no comments, or who never wrote about any of their difficulties, saw little improvement.

The study, detailed by the Univeristy of Haifa, Israel says:

“Previous research shows that simply writing about personal misfortune can be healing—   …The new study, however, finds that online writing may be even more helpful, at least for teenagers who feel isolated and have difficulty socializing.  Israeli researchers studied 161 teens (aged 14-17) who were experiencing significant social anxiety and distress in interacting with their peers.”

University of Haifa, Israel, experiments show blogging can
integrate teens into supportive on-line communities, while
affirming positive responses to life difficulties.

“All of the writing groups showed significant improvement after ten weeks of blogging, as rated by their own reports of feeling better and socializing more and by experts who did not know their group assignments. The bloggers said they were more self confident, had better self-esteem and were emotionally more comfortable with social situations than they had been before they began writing. Those who blogged on sites that included comments, however, benefited most, and reported feeling less social distress, gaining more self-esteem and engaging in more social activity in real life. The improvements continued two months later, at the study’s last follow up.

The authors write, “It seems that the characteristics of the Internet and the qualities of expressive writing can be maximized by blogging. A blog can provide the unique combination of a comfortable space for self-expression, one that is both intimate and authentic, with an interactive social environment that is popular among adolescents.”

The experiment helps to show that public writings made up of personal content can help boost self-esteem of the writer. This is especially true if the writer uses the platform to divulge how he or she is responding to life’s difficulties, and allows for space for peers to respond to the writings. Blogging can also integrate the writer into a supportive online community. This can be incredibly helpful during teen years, when many young people feel alienated.

Although negative Internet content is detrimental,
supervised blogging can allow an exchange of peer
ideas leading to community.

Some parents may be concerned about negative conduct online. Fortunately, a separate study has found that there is probably little reason to worry about that. The aim of the study was to see what teens tend to write about if they keep a blog. Most content was positive, researchers reported. Teenagers usually wrote about school activities they had enjoyed and how they had spent time with friends and family. There was little talk of risky actions, like skipping class or breaking the law.

When it comes to young people and the Internet, it is always important to remain watchful for negative information and interactions to which they might be exposed. However, excessive caution might prevent teenagers from experiencing the positive side of online networks. Blogging, in particular, seems to be a positive way for that demographic to discuss their feelings and the events of the day, all the while better connecting with peers. It can help make otherwise alienated teenagers feel like they’re part of a community.

And, hey! I know blogging makes me feel better.

I have steadily increased connecting with my
peer community on BlogHer.com!

   

NaBloPoMo June 2012



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Sep 12 2010

Women were expected to “dress for success” even while they waxed floors.

From the Literary Digest, October 16, 1926

You don’t hear, at least I haven’t heard, many people using the terms dysfunctional families anymore. It just seems the tide has turned away from the self-analysis, introspection and self-help that were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Now, it appears people look to diagnoses from doctors and filling perscriptions for feelings of inadequacy or depression. I see this as sad, because I know how much self-help from facilitators like Louise Hay and John Bradshaw helped me as they did many people across the country during the self-help years of the 1980s.

When I try to figure out what is the difference between the 1980s and now, I factor in the growing influence of computers in our lives. It looks to me that we often tend to isolate our interactions to those with whom we can electronically communicate. A quick soundbite or Tweet is immediate, but it also may limit our need to reach out for contact with actual human beings. It satisfies keeping in touch in a cursory manner, but as it puts the get in touch “check in the block,” it does not fulfill the need for face to face interaction. We give and receive so much from each other when we visit in person. As the tide seems to have turned from self-help to seeking professional medical help, it looks like we are not reaching out for our associate’s insights like we used to.

It seems many people are on computers holding down jobs in a workplace or otherwise producing income streams for the better part of the day. That’s a great number of hours spent interacting with an unfeeling cyberworld rather than with families, friends and neighbors. And, when one figures in the additional leisure hours spent isolated in front of the television, even when in the company of others, it is easy to see we are not bonding with people whose companionship we would otherwise share.

Having thought about it for a while, I’ve decided we are increasingly tending to disconnect from our fellow humans and are shutting ourselves down to those around us. We either wear false smiles or are not available to our friends and families while we isolate to suffer by ourselves. We often face the glow of the computer screen, doing work, we say, while really using the computer to mask our sadness.

In some ways, I find our lack of human interaction today as bad as when I was growing up in the 1950s.  Then, the code of behavior was clearly spelled out for each individual and no one dared admitting they didn’t, or would rather not, fit in the system. At least it seemed that way in my neighborhood.

We really did have the June and Ward Clevers, neighbors like the parents in the Leave it to Beaver television show, living up and down the block. I can remember that their houses always appeared in order and delightfully so when I would visit. Were the women back then into keeping house, working non-stop on being immaculate in their housekeeping and appearance to hide their sadness? I don’t remember people discussing feelings, reading self-help books or freely letting feelings show.

Maybe, that’s somewhat like today. The rigid codes of behavior have greatly lessened, but are we isolating on the computer to deny healthy personal interactions? Does that glowing screen and our back to the room replace June Cleaver’s pearl earrings and necklace?

If you are too young to remember the Leave It to Beaver show on TV, click play:

Notice how Ward Cleaver reacts when June tells him her sister had a baby girl rather than a baby boy. Can you imagine the message to all of the little girls watching?



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