Mental Health

Emotional Risks of Online Life

Delaney Ruston, MD
October 22, 2019
shutterstock_1512343931.jpg

A school teacher recently told me how a middle schooler did not like the way another student was acting on Instagram and so blocked her. The blocked girl got so mad that she started sending threatening texts to the student who blocked her. It got so bad that several adults were brought into the situation.

Recently at a screening of Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, the principal at the school told me she had a group of boys who were posting inappropriate things about each other on social media. When she told the boys that this could come back to haunt them—i.e., things can last forever on the internet—they responded:

"Yeah, we hear that, but we never hear a story of anything bad happening."

This made me think of a powerful episode of the podcast Hidden Brain called Online Behavior, Real-Life Consequences: The Unfolding of a Social Media Scandal. It goes into what happened to a student when he posted inappropriate things that ended up costing him a Harvard education. The very emotional story is told beautifully and a great episode to listen to with your teens.

For this Tech Talk Tuesday, I'm interested in the range of issues and emotions that arise while spending time on social media. Emily Weinstein is a researcher at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and has done some of the best research on emotions teens feel around tech. In her study, The social media see-saw: Positive and negative influences on adolescents' affective well-being, she surveyed more than 500 teens and interviewed 26 of them in-depth about:

  • Self-expression
  • Relational interactions
  • Exploration (browsing for interests like cooking or dance; learning about the world, etc.)
  • Browsing (scrolling down Instagram, for example)

Not surprisingly, Weinstein found that every "interviewee's social media experience is characterized by both positive and negative affects across multiple dimensions."

Here are a few of the takeaways from her research:

  • The most common adverse experience teens stress about is how others judge their self-expression. (Self-expression also was reported as a source of positive emotion for the majority of the interviewees.)
  • Relational interactions are the most common positive feelings teens experienced.
  • The majority of teens stated that relational interactions could also cause negative emotions from feeling left out or disconnected.

Sharing these excerpts from interviews with participants in the study can be a good way to begin a discussion about emotions and social media. *It is not a coincidence that I put positive answers at the top. Starting with the positive promotes more engaging conversations with kids and teens who are often defensive around tech issues.

"Ron (aged 18) regularly uses Snapchat stories for self-expression to his friends and peers. 'I feel good when I post something. I feel kinda happy … Every time I have an idea, I get really excited about it, I wanna put it out there.'"

"Paola's (aged 16) Instagram footprint serves as a valued record of development: "You can look back at all your old photos … and you can just see how you've developed over all of that [time]. And that's cool … I think it's cool to see how you progress over [time], like how your personality changes, if it does.'"

"At the same time, teens worry about how others judge their self-expression. Paola admits feeling 'hesitant' 'every time I post [on Instagram], I worry a lot.' Paola explains, about the possibility that peers 'don't like something about [my post] or they do like something about it and they'll screenshot it and … it could go anywhere.' Paola manages her concern about peer feedback by seeking approval from friends before she posts anything on social media."

"Tony also worries about the possibility that someone will 'screenshot' one of his Instagram or Snapchat posts; he sees every expression as a potential 'virus' that is 'never gone.'“

A key take-home from all these interviews, which is expected, of course, is that every teen describes having both negative and positive emotions tied to social media. One of the critical issues in all this is how teens cope with their experiences and emotions.

For today's Tech Talk Tuesday here are a few questions to get a conversation started about emotions:

  1. What social media platform is most important to you right now?
  2. What kinds of interactions on that site make you feel good?
  3. What kinds of interactions on that site make you feel bad?
  4. Are there certain sites you post on when you are feeling good? Or others when you are feeling low?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

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Mental Health

Emotional Risks of Online Life

Delaney Ruston, MD
October 22, 2019
shutterstock_1512343931.jpg

A school teacher recently told me how a middle schooler did not like the way another student was acting on Instagram and so blocked her. The blocked girl got so mad that she started sending threatening texts to the student who blocked her. It got so bad that several adults were brought into the situation.

Recently at a screening of Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, the principal at the school told me she had a group of boys who were posting inappropriate things about each other on social media. When she told the boys that this could come back to haunt them—i.e., things can last forever on the internet—they responded:

"Yeah, we hear that, but we never hear a story of anything bad happening."

This made me think of a powerful episode of the podcast Hidden Brain called Online Behavior, Real-Life Consequences: The Unfolding of a Social Media Scandal. It goes into what happened to a student when he posted inappropriate things that ended up costing him a Harvard education. The very emotional story is told beautifully and a great episode to listen to with your teens.

For this Tech Talk Tuesday, I'm interested in the range of issues and emotions that arise while spending time on social media. Emily Weinstein is a researcher at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and has done some of the best research on emotions teens feel around tech. In her study, The social media see-saw: Positive and negative influences on adolescents' affective well-being, she surveyed more than 500 teens and interviewed 26 of them in-depth about:

  • Self-expression
  • Relational interactions
  • Exploration (browsing for interests like cooking or dance; learning about the world, etc.)
  • Browsing (scrolling down Instagram, for example)

Not surprisingly, Weinstein found that every "interviewee's social media experience is characterized by both positive and negative affects across multiple dimensions."

Here are a few of the takeaways from her research:

  • The most common adverse experience teens stress about is how others judge their self-expression. (Self-expression also was reported as a source of positive emotion for the majority of the interviewees.)
  • Relational interactions are the most common positive feelings teens experienced.
  • The majority of teens stated that relational interactions could also cause negative emotions from feeling left out or disconnected.

Sharing these excerpts from interviews with participants in the study can be a good way to begin a discussion about emotions and social media. *It is not a coincidence that I put positive answers at the top. Starting with the positive promotes more engaging conversations with kids and teens who are often defensive around tech issues.

"Ron (aged 18) regularly uses Snapchat stories for self-expression to his friends and peers. 'I feel good when I post something. I feel kinda happy … Every time I have an idea, I get really excited about it, I wanna put it out there.'"

"Paola's (aged 16) Instagram footprint serves as a valued record of development: "You can look back at all your old photos … and you can just see how you've developed over all of that [time]. And that's cool … I think it's cool to see how you progress over [time], like how your personality changes, if it does.'"

"At the same time, teens worry about how others judge their self-expression. Paola admits feeling 'hesitant' 'every time I post [on Instagram], I worry a lot.' Paola explains, about the possibility that peers 'don't like something about [my post] or they do like something about it and they'll screenshot it and … it could go anywhere.' Paola manages her concern about peer feedback by seeking approval from friends before she posts anything on social media."

"Tony also worries about the possibility that someone will 'screenshot' one of his Instagram or Snapchat posts; he sees every expression as a potential 'virus' that is 'never gone.'“

A key take-home from all these interviews, which is expected, of course, is that every teen describes having both negative and positive emotions tied to social media. One of the critical issues in all this is how teens cope with their experiences and emotions.

For today's Tech Talk Tuesday here are a few questions to get a conversation started about emotions:

  1. What social media platform is most important to you right now?
  2. What kinds of interactions on that site make you feel good?
  3. What kinds of interactions on that site make you feel bad?
  4. Are there certain sites you post on when you are feeling good? Or others when you are feeling low?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

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