Social has an unavoidable impact on how we view ourselves. Excessive use of technology is often associated with a distorted worldview and less time devoted to healthy behaviors. Researchers have spent a lot of time analyzing the effect of social media on teen mental health but are just starting to take a look at the role social media plays in behavior issues.
There are many reasons teens have turned to social media to shape their sense of identity. Social media allows teens to stay connected with friends and family by facilitating conversations and group chats. They are more likely to stay up-to-date on current events through social media than the news. In addition to local news, they learn more about trends in style and offline behaviors, like sexual experimentation and drug experimentation.
For many teens, their online lives are an extension of their offline lives. For others, they find it easier to express themselves online and to build their own online communities to escape from stressors in their offline lives. For both groups of teens, the Internet gives them the opportunity to construct their ideal self, by showing off exciting life experiences, material possessions, and interacting with others freely.
Problems with the Online World
According to a clinical report by Gwenn O’Keefe, MD, the risks of technology for adolescents fall into four main categories:
- Inappropriate content
- Lack of understanding of online privacy issues
- Outside influences of third-party advertising groups
Nearly all teenagers use some form of social media and can spend up to 40 hours a week using technology. Internet addiction isn’t necessarily defined by time spent online, but the way teens use the Internet. The lack of human connection and potential for negative peer-interactions leads to child behavior issues and emotional struggles if not closely monitored.
Rise of Behavior Issues with Social Media “Privacy”
Though bullying and sexual experimentation have been a part of adolescent behavior for generations, the Internet offers the privacy and anonymity to increase the frequency and severity of these child behavior issues. Teens are more likely to post inappropriate pictures or comments when they do not have to deal with immediate response. Things can escalate much more quickly when teens feel anonymous behind the protection of a digital screen. When bullied in school, the possibility of more than a few people hearing or seeing is low. However, a negative online comment or sexual photo can reach hundreds of students in mere minutes.
Romanticizing Behavior Issues
One of the biggest problems with social media is that it paints an unrealistic picture of how often other teens are engaging in risky behaviors. Teens tend to overestimate the extent their peers smoke, drink, hook up, and sneak out to justify their own behaviors, but their perceptions are often based on what other people advertise through social media.
Teens are more likely to post pictures of themselves at a party than at home in sweatpants. They are also more likely to exaggerate their rebelliousness by posting “inappropriate” lyrics or claiming they don’t care what other people think of them. While social media gives teens a platform to be more vulnerable and reach out for support, it also gives teens to opportunity to carefully cultivate what other people think of them–by presenting as more cool and carefree than they may be offline.
Trails Carolina Can Help
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior. Trails Carolina gives students the tools they need to lead happy and healthy lives.
Contact us at 800-975-7303. We can help your family today!
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13
Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.