365 days of strategic thinking

Monday, May 17, 2010

31) Teens & Social Media

There was an article in the LA Times today about a recent study involving teens and social media. The main take-away point of the study was this: kids most likely to spend a lot of time on social media sites may be more well-adjusted, psychologically and socially. This runs contrary to the common (parental) belief that heavy use of the Internet and participation in online social networks will make their offspring withdrawn, distracted and socially inferior.

Back in the day, I relied on our home phone (now called the land line) to connect with friends. Through the handset I navigated social mores - don't pick up after the first ring, how to end a call gracefully, how to listen silently on a three-way call with my crush of the moment. Then AOL gave me the power of email and instant messenger - new channels with their own sets of rules to use to my social advantage.

My experience with social development and technology is no different than that of teens today. Kids simply have many more channels to learn how to use now. They have new and numerous ways to develop their sense of self and their social skills. In this light, the study in the article makes perfect sense. Just as the child of yesteryear who is forbidden to use the phone may turn out socially awkward, the child not engaging in social media may be less well-adjusted than his peers who do. Because they lack access to the appropriate tools to interact with others, they are unable to learn, practice and grow socially.

What parents who worry that the Internet is taking their child away from his real social life must understand is that his real social life is online. It exists digitally in a way that it has never before.