During the pandemic, tweens and teens used social media constantly to connect with their friends and family for self-expression and emotional support – but sometimes social comparison, fear of missing out, cyberbullying and other online negativity can affect their self-esteem or leave them feeling anxious or depressed. Children and Screens’ #AskTheExperts webinar “Constantly Connected: The Social Media Lives of Teenagers,” held on July 1st, 2020 at 12:00pm EDT via Zoom, featured an interdisciplinary panel of experts who discussed the research on social media’s psychological effects on tweens and teens, and provided strategies to protect young people from potential social media pitfalls and tools to help teens communicate positively online.
Larry Rosen, PhDProfessor Emeritus and Past ChairModerator
Emily Weinstein, PhDPrincipal Investigator
Kara Bagot, MDMedical Director; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Linda Charmaraman, PhDSenior Research Scientist; Director
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Welcome everyone to another ask the experts workshop. I am Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra founder and CEO of Children and Screens Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, host of the series. As many of you know Children and Screens is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits that advances and supports science on the topic of digital media use and children and teens cognitive, psychosocial, emotional, behavioral and physical well-being and development. We provide research grants, convene interdisciplinary experts, and curate articles and supplements and top scientific publications. In response to the devastating pandemic, we have brought together experts in the field to provide you and your family with the tools and resources you may need to manage digital media use this summer. In addition, we are funding three outstanding research projects that will investigate the short and long term impacts of digital media use during this pandemic. On to today’s conversation, we would like to extend a big thank you in advance to our experts who will explore what we know about the digital media lives of teens and tweens and help you facilitate healthy and honest conversations with your family about their social media use. A big thank you to all of them for sharing their time and expertise and for you for joining us. Our panelists have reviewed the questions you submitted and will answer as many as they can. If you have additional questions during the workshop please type them into the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen we will answer as many questions as time permits. We are recording today’s workshop and hope to upload a YouTube video in the coming days. You’ll receive a link to the YouTube channel tomorrow where you can find videos from our past webinars as well. It is now my great pleasure to introduce our moderator Dr. Larry Rosen. Dr. Rosen is a renowned research psychologists educator and author known internationally as an expert in the psychology of Technology. He serves as Professor emeritus California State University where he was previously the chair of the psychology department. We are so grateful to have Dr. Rosen with us today. Welcome Larry.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thank You Pam. Thanks for the nice introduction. Before hearing our great panel of speakers what I’d like to do is provide a bit of context or set the table for their in-depth talks by briefly introducing four studies that I think will give you a sense of teens and social media first one is through common sense media which is a well-respected organization and in 2012 and again in 2018 they asked teens the following question; how often do you use social media? In 2012 thirty-four percent said they used it more than once a day staggeringly just six years later that number had doubled to 70 percent using social media at least once a day. I think that’s pretty salient and it tells you a little bit more about social media I mean some of our other research by the way we are finding that the average teen has an active presence on six social media sites. That is a lot of social obligation that they’re facing. The second study, in my own work for the last three years, I’ve been examining smartphone behavior of high school seniors. We’ve been using an app called moment that tells me how many times a day the phone is unlocked and how many minutes a day it stays unlocked. It is clear and a bit shocking that these teens unlock their smartphone about 70 times a day which if you do the calculations if you assume they sleep eight hours a day, which they don’t that’s about every 15 minutes and in total they use it for almost 270 minutes a day which is about four and a half hours. So if you kind of do a little bit of math what you find is that they unlock their phone they go on from an average of about four minutes and they lock their phone take about ten eleven minutes unlock it again go on for four minutes all the time and as we’re gonna find out later on all day and all night too. In order to further understand what they’re doing with their smart phones I’ve been having students also email me weekly screenshots from their iPhones or their Android phones and what these give me is information about what they’re actually doing. So what is very clear when you look at the weekly time spent through screen time or through androids digital well being, that the most time that these kids are spending is on social media by far. It is the number one use of their smartphone and of course not surprisingly the two most popular social media sites that they go on right now our Instagram and Snapchat. Screen time also gives you more information though it tells you what happens when the team first unlocks their phone and what icon they choose to tap on that icon of course is a social media icon and again usually either Instagram or Snapchat and then finally it also gives you notifications and where the notifications from come from and again not surprisingly almost all the notifications that they get come from some sort of communication issue, but mostly social media. So they’re really spending a large chunk of that four-and-a-half hours a day using social media and then finally a very interesting sort of neuropsych study out of Santa Barbara examined changes in cortisol levels and interleukin levels. Now cortisol measures stress and arousal. Interleukin measures inflammation and what they did is they had a family with a mother, a father, and a teenager and in the morning each of them took a swab which measured both those levels from their saliva were that measured both of those levels of cortisol and interleukin and then 30 minutes later they took a second swab. So we could look at in that study is; how much does their arousal increase and how much does their inflammation increase? And then before they did the study they asked each of the participants teenagers and parents how much they used each of many different tools, but among the most popular of course were email and social media. So when they looked at fathers and what caused the increase in cortisol, in stress or inflammation, between waking wakening and 30 minutes later the only variable that related to that was email. So you can imagine fathers waking up in the morning. They’ve got a ton of email from their boss or from their their co-workers and they’ve got to respond and that makes them anxious. With teenagers of course you can probably guess that the only technology use responsible for an increase in both stress and inflammation is social media. So without further ado, let’s meet our first speaker who is Dr. Linda Charmaraman term Arion sorry Linda, Dr. Linda Charmaraman thank you. Linda is a senior research scientist at Wellesley Center for women as director of the youth media and well-being research lab she was co-principal investigator of a middle school social media pilot study funded by Children and Screens in 2017 and 18. Currently she’s conducting a three-year National Institute of Health grant to follow middle school students and their parents longitudinally, across time, to determine the health effects of early smartphone use, social media, and gaming and also piloting a free week-long summer workshop to empower youth to use digital media to explore their identity and their self-efficacy and to strengthen those online relationships that they have particularly during the social isolation of COVID 19. Linda’s going to start us off with a look at the current research on adolescent social media use from the good, to the bad, to the ugly.
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: Thank you so much Larry for your lovely introduction and Pam just wanted to account for inviting all of us to speak with you all today. I would love to can you see I’m trying to okay here we go I’m trying to share this screen and it’s working so so back before if you weren’t born before the 1980s everybody was worried about your media used in terms of TV and being on TV too much nowadays it’s the online environment that is ubiquitous it’s here to stay why. Let’s let’s all figure out together how to navigate this new digital world that our teens are in. Back in even just five years ago the social media site stats that youth were using mirrored kind of what their adults were using. Facebook was the most important one most commonly used one and if you look just three years later Facebook started to slide you know it’s hard to switch positions with Instagram and YouTube started becoming more recognized as a social media site because of the fact that you could upload content, you can interact with comments, and subscribe to channels, and create profiles in that way. If you look at it by different types of populations, like for instance by gender the use of social media you know there’s some there’s some differences some group differences. You know the top three of the YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram are equally as interesting to boys and girls, but as you could see girls gravitate more towards Pinterest, Tik-Tok and House Party. If you don’t know what House Party is, it’s a group chat where you can kind of hang out and as a group you know that a live video chat boy is kind of tend to gravitate towards Twitch which is a gaming a social media platform. VSCO is also very very popular with the girls it’s a photo sharing app and and as you can see there’s there’s some gender differences when we when we are following our youth from pre pandemic times we wanted to kind of see if we cut the data during this time if there would be any time and the changes in social media use and this different sites that they used and can you guess you know what what social media site became more popular during spring out 2020. So in the fall Snapchat was the biggest most popular site and tik-tok was second. Twenty two percent of of youth in middle school indicated that that was the favorite site and nowadays and this this data was just collected in June forty two percent its risen in ranks it’s the number one most favorite site for the middle school youth and it turns out that you know I was just talking to Emily earlier this morning that the most downloaded app in the first quarter 2020 happens to be Tik-Tok in the US. So a lot of people come and ask us about it social media sites are created equal you know like, um should I be worried about one side more than others? You know when I think about it I think about the different affordances or features that social media sites can give users there’s privacy. Can you be accountable for what you post up or is your name is your real name involved? Is there are their traces? Does it disappeared is it archived forever? There’s the notion of popularity. There’s you know some sites are lend itself to more need for social validation and approval liking commenting persuasion some sites are about trying to influence you to buy certain things or to think a certain beauty ideal is is the highest and best. It can kind of help kind of sort those peer norms and make it seem like these everybody’s doing these acts sometimes their risky acts. Looking at different sites, I mean just as an examples like YouTube you know unless you’re youtuber, you’re a content creator, if you’re a passive viewer you know you’re not looking for validation you’re trying to get people to like you. Nobody knows what your navigating towards, except there is this these algorithms that sometimes expose you to some unwanted content so it’s up to you to kind of regulate that. For snapchat you know there’s increased privacy for the user because you know things disappear they expire. It’s ephemeral. It reduces accountability though so sometimes you might post things that you might not normally post you know in a normal circumstance. The streak system of Snapchat increases social obligations so some people like that because it increases connections with their friends but sometimes it’s also a lot of anxiety because you’re not sure you don’t want disappoint people if you break the streak. Instagram a lot of people know that it’s about the likes and and you know creating a certain vibe it’s a certain aesthetic. Influencers want to suggest what is valued out there and it tends to invite the whole notion of curated selves. Now that you want to put your best self forward a lot of impression management going on. And so another thing that researchers grapple with you know is is this divide between frequency and content. You know a lot of people are asking you know quantity questions you know is this too much too often how many hours is the limit you know what’s the minimum, maximum? It really has to do with the context. You know I mean what are the number of minutes being used for. You know, if it’s something productive is it something that is helping to connect people that otherwise can’t be connected. If it to distract themselves from schoolwork. You know the number of sites. Larry mentioned earlier that you know youth are on six different sites a lot of them and should we be concerned about that. It all depends on it is it displacing time that could be spent on other things, or is it something that helps them feel you know that they are connecting with other people. They’re coping with some stress sometimes. The number of sites doesn’t equate with how many minutes that they bear on it. Some people are very quick strollers and some people actually create content and might take a lot of time. The number of friends and followers you have that also affects how much you value those sites. There’s more social obligation, like I was saying. The higher your network size sometimes the more the more time you might need to scroll through everybody’s updates right. So that’s something to look out for. People are differentially susceptible to the positives and negatives of social media sites. It could depend on your age it’s not the same age that it’s right for everybody to start social media some of them some people are better at self-regulation than others. Some people are more affected by social comparisons and affects their self-esteem. It depends on your social network if your network is gonna be a teasing culture maybe not so so easy to to you know maintain and healthy behaviors. Maybe you have a fear of in-person social competence and so you, you dive into the online context to compensate. So it all depends on your motivations also for what you’re doing on social media. Now the quality of the interactions that you have and social media really really matter. There’s positive ones. You know a lot of people hear about the negative ones but the positive people are giving and receiving social support especially during this COVID-19 time. People are finding affinity groups people that are like-minded that are like them in ways that might be hidden or maybe stigmatized you know maybe you’re an activist and you want to find out what other people are doing out there civic engagement purposes. There’s a there’s ways of raising awareness you know it’s a great information sharing platform and it could increase your sense of belonging. Of course, there’s a negative things that are always publicized to you know to provoke a lot of fear and a lot of parents and educators you know about the cyberbullying, unwanted sexual content, hate messages. You know perpetuating unrealistic beauty stereotypes, which Karla is gonna be talking about in detail in her presentation. So what are the teens say, you know I mean researchers are studying teen use of social media sites, but what do the teens say about its use. You know a corner the Pugh latest research there’s a lot of positive to say about it you know about the sense of feeling connected and interacting with more diverse groups of people, you know maybe it’s seeing different sides of somebody, I’m exploring different identities, on social identities, somebody’s race so many sexual orientation interests in Minecraft. You know those kinds of things it kind of bridges the geographical divide and more often than that you know more two-thirds if people are seeing that it’s definitely a positive side to it. You know of course there’s people that are kind of on the less hat less in half side they’re seeing drama, you know, sometimes it has to do with personal drama or a drama that they are vicariously experiencing that other people are experiencing they are feeling pressure to look good all the time. You know that whole impression management of best selves management and posting content that’ll get an audience you know to kind of validate that they had a great photo or they had a great comment or joke and a small sector you know a fourth, you know which should be dismissed is that they do feel worse about their own lives sometimes when to compare them with other people and that’s where a lot of parents and adults in come in and kind of help them manage some of some of those feelings. You know what you summer workshops that we’re piloting to help middle schoolers kind of have more healthy social media use we we ask them to do certain exercises. Like you know what can you do to boost well-being on your social media sites. You know you have a lot of agency to to influence the culture of your your site. So, so these are some means that people showed as examples of what what we we could do to kind of be more positive online a lot of people asked about does social media cause depression? And no there’s no definitive causal links although there’s some studies that show some positive very strong associations. A lot of times depression we don’t know if the depression came before their social media use. Or if the social media use kind of exasperated the depression? And so sometimes it has to do with the behaviors that that one has online you know maybe if you’re lurking quote-unquote just browsing and not actively you know connecting with other people. That that lends itself to kind of the social comparison mode and feeling like everybody else is having more much more fun than I am and so there’s that fear of missing out on you know the best selves. It should be noted that there’s some studies that point that it’s not just the the people that use social media a lot that have depressive symptoms. There’s also people there’s also some some evidence that people who don’t use it enough are also depressed. So, with depression along comes anxiety oftentimes people are wondering okay yes all is all this scrolling all this keeping up with content you know what if you don’t get any feedback what if you don’t get you know if you get negative feedback people tease you you become more aware of other people’s issues and the world’s issues. You know with the pandemic and the fears and social distancing. You know people are bombarded by an overloaded with a lot of information that they have of the people that they that they are connected to. There’s this notion of doom scrolling that some people have kind of typed in a question about you know people are looking for the catastrophic News and and just like I said that sometimes people are gravitating towards the like people are trying to create the best selves personally, but the news media their their job is to kind of bring out the the most headline you know inducing people trying to get their attention trying to get the most catastrophic kind of news out there to get get those viewers get the attention and sometimes it’s easy to kind of kind of get lulled into thinking that the whole world is gone down down down in flames when it when you’re in this this mode and it’ll be helpful for for adults to kind of notice if their youth are in that mode. When we looked and compared to just this notion a fear of missing out pre-pandemic, in the fall, to just this past month in June. That worried of people having fun without me friends and without me it’s the same does it matter if you’re socially distancing or not. We thought was that was surprising but there is this sense that there’s some evidence now that shows that maybe people aren’t posting every single update it’s not as important anymore it’s post all those updates as it was as it was before. They’re taking more breaks from social media, they’re avoiding social media because it overwhelms them. I think there’s some evidence that maybe the youth are taking care of themselves and trying to take take some breaks from some of this doom scrolling. You know I was saying earlier that, you know, the size of the network really matters and when we when we looked at you know how many people are good middle schoolers following you know in the children’s screens funded study they did with Megan Reno. We found that there are some people that follow 2,000 people and some of them are people they do not know like celebrities. You know 154 celebrities can imagine all those updates that you have to keep up with that’s a lot of time and a lot of emotional investments. So this is my last slide and I just wanted to kind of end on what are people doing right now because you know with the stress levels of the pandemic and social distancing and being at home and not being at school what are they doing to help them cope with stress. Some of them have to do with media and online sort of activities and some of them had to do with need to be with people that that are important to them so the number one thing that people said and this time was to spend time with a close friend. I know it’s really hard to do that with the you know recommendations out there, but even with zoom I mean when when we’ve asked you know 32 percent of them are actually feeling relief from their stress by doing the zoom, zoom account. So it does work for some people you know it just not for some people you know they are tapped out and they’re they’re done and what’s for other people it’s their way to connect it’s their way to hang out you know. House Party, zoom. People are creating content for Tik-Tok you know a third of people in our whole sample are creating content for Tik-Tok so that somehow making making them you know making it a very effective may be a coping mechanism during this time and you know as I as I started the presentation. You know back in the old days it was TV that people were worried about the content looking here TV watching your TV shows now nowadays it’s streamedd and now on-demand Netflix and such it’s still something that people go to for stress and coping and it’s another kind of indicator that maybe social media sites aren’t only the things to to be watching still looking at that content on YouTube and Netflix for the youth is also important. So thank you so much for for inviting us to do this panel. I use are my funders and very very grateful to them and to my all my colleagues and students if you’re interested in learning more about these free workshops for virtual workshops for middle school youth. Email me and we can connect it since virtual it’s Geographic you graphically unbounded so so and check out my website too. So thank you so much.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thank you very much Linda for that very fascinating talk and for the interesting look at exactly what kids are doing on social media and what it means. I was interested in a couple of things that you said, but one that struck me and I’ve been thinking about this for a long time is; what does what is technology doing to us and particularly very young people when they create things like on snapchat or when they create infinite scrolling on various websites where this is no end to your scrolling. What kind of effect do you think that has on these tweens when they are basically forced to keep a streak alive? And I’ve talked to some teens about this and and I found out much to my surprise that if they go on vacation before the pandemic of course but if they go on vacation they actually give their passwords to a friend so the friend can keep the streaks alive. Really feels like a little bit of a manipulation to keep them glued to the screen. What do you think from all of your your research?
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: Yes it’s amazing how a little feature an affordance of a social media site called a streak could change the way you interact with somebody and the kind of obligations you have to them each and every single day. I mean those streaks are you know cut you know they are no longer there if you are the one to disappoint the other person to stop connecting back and forth. I think it’s it’s it’s definitely some the second issue if it’s replacing the in-person interactions you know the fact that there is evidence that they are connected that their friend their close on an app and that’s what they use to show that they are close. That this means something about that you’re my best friend. I’ve seen I’ve heard of and I’ve done interviews with with students about how how angry they get disappoint of it yet when these streaks are broken. They feel like it it’s um it kind of matters over other things that are evidence of being close and being best friends. So I think sometimes the fact that there’s a digital footprint you know of their friendship. It’s sort of is a tracking system that that for better for worse it could help people feel like feel valued numerically. If they see that that long streak you know and feeling accomplished that way and unfortunately that means that some people will that validation that external kind of you know technology-assisted. You know for the maintenance tool when they could just you know do the old-fashioned let’s get on the phone. Let’s go and do a bike ride together. Yeah so I think that that constant need to prove yourself either to as a friend or to prove that you’re you’re doing great in life is exhausting. Let’s just say in general.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks Linda. It’s interesting when you were answering the question, why I harken back to way back to Myspace and when Myspace came out you were to put pictures of your top eight
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: aha
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: in your front page and that was again very controversial because it moved from the top eight. Well why am I not on the top eight and then finally move it to the top sixteen and I don’t even remember where they went from there but but it is it is touching and I remember we were studying MySpace way long time ago that people would talk to us about how they felt by getting left off the top eight or kicked on the top eight. And had a tremendous effect on their self-esteem.
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: absolutely
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: We’re gonna move on to Karla bag Kara sorry Dr. Kara Bagot. Dr. Kara Bagot is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a research background is in adolescent substance abuse disorders also known as SUDS and overlapping childhood psychopathology. Dr. Kara Bagot current work focuses on the effects of technology, for example social media video gaming internet use, on the development of these SUDS and psychiatric illnesses and children and adolescents and ways to use mobile and digital technologies to improve the assessment, monitoring, and treatment of suds in adolescents. Finally Kara is going to talk to us about the relationship between social media use and mental health a very controversial topic in our field right now.
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: So I thank you for the introduction Larry. Thanks Pam again for inviting me to speak today. So I’m going to start off with a fairly long ish video it’s about four minutes in length and then I will talk a little bit afterwards to give it some context. So let’s get started with the video first
[Like me: A social media addiction Youtube Video]: Only the name have been changed. My name is Jordan and this is I am a young pretty happy girl. I have a hot buddy adult face tons of friends and I leave a finish to life. Every day I wake up and I share my wonderful life with amazing people who love me. They love my shiny hair. They say my smile is the cutest. They say my eyes tell amazing stories. They say my body’s so hot I could model for Victoria’s Secret. Yes, sometimes comments are not that polite. I get a lot of them ‘damn bitc your ass drives me crazy, if my girlfriend had your boobs I wouldn’t cheat on her. I want to bang you right now. I don’t respond to those comments but I think it is quite flattering who doesn’t want to be desired to be the center of attention. I love that feeling. I feel powerful influential only remain in control I feel loved and it feels so good [Music]. There is one very important thing I forgot to tell you about me, I am just lonely and I don’t have that many friends I mean real friends. I live my life through your eyes from another fake love you gave me. Yes I said fake fake love fake life like friends fake pictures. What do you don’t see is what I put myself through to fit this hunger for my love, more likes. I show you my fake breakfast but what I don’t mention is that this is the only meal I’ll have today. I show you my fake smile on pretending I haven’t been crying all night. Only show you my perfect body when I’ve been starving and denying myself to get the perfect fake lingerie shots. What I never show you is that I hate myself so bad.
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Okay so I’m gonna stop there and just switch screens. Okay, so now I’m going to talk a little bit about social media and teen mental health. So so Larry mentioned already sort of the most frequently used social networks network sites for teenagers this data is of as of September 2019. It’s a little misleading like Larry said the kids are on about six or more social media sites so while a lot of teens use Facebook it’s not necessarily the most frequently used social network. So they don’t spend a ton of time on it. So Instagram and snapchat are the most commonly used following YouTube actually and Tik-Tok use has increased pre-COVID from September 2019 to March 2020 by sixteen percent. So there could be a lot of fluctuation and use of sites over very short periods of time and so when we look at the mental health aspect of social media and the impact it has on youth. Here we see that Green is sort of net positive and we heard Linda talk a little bit about some of the positives and then like this darker deeper red is the net negative. So we see that YouTube has sort of a net positive effect on on social young people and I think that’s in many ways for the reasons that Linda said because there really is no need for social validation and you can be kind of anonymous actually on on YouTube and so then as we see across as being moved from net positive to net negative we move from Twitter to Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram being rated is the most negative in terms of mental health impact. And so looking at social media and sort of comparing oneself with others really has an impact on ones thoughts. So we hear kids saying that other people are better than me people are having a better time than me other people look better than me and so those thoughts then reverberate and have an impact on our feelings. We see low self-worth low, self confidence, sadness, jealousy, and then that can further impact the way that we behave in real life as well as physical health. And it can become a vicious cycle. And so social media use can can influence a number of things, right so like poor sleep we heard about online harassment poor self-esteem body image and then that can lead to sort of more significant mental health issues like depressive symptoms or even a full full-blown depression. So in the next followings in the next few slides I pulled from Jean Twenge’s work she’s at San Diego State University. The numbers on these graphs aren’t so important what I really want everyone to focus on is really the trends. So here in yellow we see SNS thats social networking sites so we see that there’s this critical point at about half hour a day then after that as we increase our time on social media we see decrease in happiness and all this work is done in adolescence 13 to 18. Here we see a percent low well-being on the y-axis so well-being is really defined as sort of self esteem life satisfaction and Happiness. So if we look at the bold line at the top we see again there’s this sort of critical point at about half an hour of exposure to social media a day but after that half hour exposures we increase exposure we see increased risk of one or more suicide related outcome. So that’s anything like suicide attempt a suicide intent or thoughts about suicide. In the middle sort of dashed line we see again past that half hour critical point as we increase our digital media use per day we see increases in happiness and in in the bottom gray sort of solid line has the increased past a half an hour per day when we see a sort of low welding. We see the same things around suicide and depression. So again there seems to be this half hour to sort of like cut point but after when you increase past that cut point we see increases in depressive episodes and the top line increases in considering suicide in the gray dashed line following that in the gray darker line we see made suicidal comments and dash line a suicide attempt. And so, as was mentioned before by Larry, and this is this I believe or the statistics he was referencing is that social media use has been increasing drastically right. So he had mentioned over the course of six a six year period that more than once a day social media use doubled and we see that 16% of teens are on social media almost constantly and 27% are on hourly. So that’s a lot of youth and so why the while the data even the data that I showed you previously in the data that I’m going to talk about next doesn’t show conclusively that social media causes these mental health symptoms. We see that as social media use is increasing over time we’re seeing increased rates of lonely and loneliness for example among teens over the same period of time and again rates the the numbers themselves aren’t so important but looking at sort of the trends, we see increases across ages eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders of loneliness even though they are more digitally connected with their peers. We’ve also seen that these issues have become more important for young women. So twenty seven percent of young women report the body image is a significant issue. Twenty percent say low self-esteem and low self-confidence and 15 percent bullying and cyber-bullying. And so we’ve seen increase in rates of these issues as well as social media use has increased. So a vast majority of adolescents report some type of cyberbullying. About 42 percent have experienced offensive name-calling, 32 percent spreading a false rumors. 25 percent receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for and so on. And so if we look at gender we actually see that cyber bullying occurs pretty equally equally between boys and girls; however, girls are more likely to experience spreading a false rumors, receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for, or having explicit images of them shared without they’re consent. And then just in terms of substance use we’ve also seen that youth 14 to 25 years of age are more likely to use any type of substance to cope with cyberbullying. So primarily we see sort of alcohol use and cannabis use and so some of my research has been looking at how substance use propagates through social media? So in our own studies we’ve found that adolescents use Instagram to sort of glamorize their substance use. So they are more likely to post photos of them or their cell their friends having fun while using substances, primarily marijuana. They’re more likely to post about the negative consequences of substance use on snapchat and they’re least likely to post anything about their substance use on Facebook. Mainly because those are the platforms that are adult the platform that adults mainly use. So their family members their parents are more likely to be on Facebook and see what they’re doing. So you know mental health is a really important issue to focus on for teens because we know just in general that 20% of adolescents live with a mental health condition. So 11% mood disorder and 8% have an anxiety disorder and we saw from Linda’s presentation there is some burgeoning evidence although it’s not causal there’s some associations between particularly depression anxiety and social media use in in youth. And then you know so that’s really important again because there are some associations between social media use and suicide and we’ve seen rates of suicide really increased in the past ten years. So right now suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24, but it is the first leading cause of death among adolescent girls. And so that’s really important to note because again as Linda as Linda showed us you know on some social media sites girls and boys use them sort of equally, but overall girls are more likely to use social media than boys and and also that we know that 90% of teens the die of suicide have an underlying mental illness. And so as parents, what can we do about this? So first of all it’s really important to model appropriate behaviors so we want to model the behaviors we want to see in our children. So we have to be really careful about spending too much time on social media because their kids see what we’re doing, especially now that we’re all home together all the time. We have to be really really careful about what we share and try not to over share we also have to be really careful about sharing information about our teens lives that they may not want shared. We also have to educate ourselves so for those parents that are not on social media or use it sort of minimally, you should join the same social media platforms that your teens are on and get to know those platforms, get to know the capabilities and you should become friends with your teens on those platforms so and just sort of use your best judgement whether they’re filter filtering their posts so you actually don’t see everything that they’re posting or if they have fake accounts so that you’re not actually following or see what they’re actually doing or what they’re posting. So really really important especially since we’re all sort of at home together socially isolating, we should really try our hardest to have sort of phone free or screen free family time where we engage in sort of physical activity. Where we do things together as a group as a family and it’s really important for for parents in this time and always really to support the positive non-physical qualities of their teens. You know so a lot of kids go to social media for sort of validation and so we as parents should be doing this all the time across the board for all of our children. And we want to initiate sort of open discussion with our with our teens. So not not being judgmental and not being blaming or Shamy. You know, we want to talk about with our teens what are the positives what do they get from from social media. We heard Linda say that the majority of teens actually think that social media has a good effect. So we should talk about what those are for kids and how they can be validated in the same way in sort of real-life scenarios and then you can sort of transition into discussing the negatives and again in a non-judgmental non sort of blaming shaming a sort of way and see if we can help our kids sort of associate the negative things with social media with the social media use itself. We want to set rules and boundaries around social media use. So this is always easier before teens start really heavily engaging in social media. So I always like to tell families that you know an elementary school in middle school whenever kids start like using smartphones, those are when you should set the the rules and the boundaries around social media use. So things like I will follow you on social media. I will have your passwords to your accounts. Those things. So if you set those boundaries early then when when kids age then it’s not as shocking and it doesn’t seem as quite a large invasion of their privacy. Of course you want to teach accountability and responsibility of using these sites there are there are options for parental controls as well and then lastly you really want to monitor changes in mood behavior sleep and just overall well-being and functioning in real life. So if you see that your your kid is sleeping more or seems to be more depressed or more anxious you know if they’re more irritable if their grades are lagging things like that those are indicators that there’s a problem and that that something should be done and you can start it start there. Thanks
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks Kara that was absolutely fascinating I went from amazingly depressed from the video all the way to feeling confident that there are things we can do at the end and I appreciate you putting all those strategies out there for parents to be able to do one of the things that you mentioned actually a couple things you mentioned but but you we moved around them a little bit you talked about social validation. Validation they get and and I’m older obviously and so I still use Facebook I know that when it approaches my birthday I start getting anxious because I know everybody’s gonna know it’s my birthday but how many people are gonna wish me a happy birthday and if I get a few I’m really miserable quite honestly for the day and sometimes I’ll just sit and refresh and refreshing just look to see what I’m getting and I can imagine as an adult that’s that’s a lot of social obligation on my part. What’s your sense of the impact of this kind of need for social validation through likes, which by the way in our research likes are the number one thing that people do on social media. So what’s your sense of the impact of getting or not getting the social validation.
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Yeah you know so so part of the research that that I did who is looking at how social media sort of actually impacts the brain so changes in the brain and so a study that that I have done is looking at looking at out likes change change your brain. So we actually know, or research suggests so my study as well as others that have done this that you know that you can change sort of the function of the brain in the same way that substance use does it right so the change is sort of reward. So when you get the likes then you feel good you feel happy right and your reward system in the brain is sort of activated and smiling and when you don’t get those likes like you said it sort of makes you feel down you know and so that those behaviors sort of then sort of lead to a cycle right so you know what makes you happy you know what makes you sad so you put out other things that you know will get likes and you’ll sort of engage in behaviors that maybe are detrimental sort of to your functioning. Right you have to spend more time on social media figuring out what’s gonna get likes to make you happy and I think that’s that’s this cycle that these kids get into. Is that you know likes make me feel good what can I do to draw more likes? I will change my behaviors I will do whatever I whatever I can to get likes. We have to we have to keep in mind for these kids that it’s not just a behavioral thing at some point it does change the brain and does impact the brain at some point.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: and just to follow up on that from the brain perspective
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: say that again sorry Larry
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: What kind of changes in the brain are you seeing that indicate I mean between people who are not getting enough likes for example?
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Yeah so we see activation in sort of the limbic system of the brain so this is like our feel good pleasure center of the brain so when people are getting likes and actually when they are giving likes to other people we see activation in the in the same area. So it’s not just personal social validation kids actually feel good about socially validating others as well.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Interesting thank you maybe there’ll be some questions later on about the brain but I may ask you one later too.
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Of course Thanks.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks very much our next speaker Emily Weinstein who is a senior researcher at project zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research examines how social media influence the everyday lives of tweens, teens, and young adults with Kari James Emily currently runs the digital dilemmas project studying how people of different ages think about thorny dilemmas of networked life. Emily’s going to talk us about these talk to us about these digital dilemmas and then how parents can talk with their children about thoughtful and safe social media use. Yhank you very much and take it away Emily.
[Dr. Emily Weinstein]: All right great Larry. Thanks so much for the introduction um thanks everyone for being with us. As Larry mentioned, I have spent the last two years running on the digital dilemmas project with my colleague Kerry James and we focused on really trying to understand the dilemmas teens are facing right now in their digital lives how they think about and navigate tensions and the ways that adults can better support them. So this is involved; collecting data from different sources and contacts through surveys interviews observations in schools and I’m gonna draw on some of that data today. Since the pandemic began earlier this year I have also been working with a fantastic teen researchers Zoya Mooney on a project tracking viral tik-tok content during COIVD 19 and we’re just digging into the analysis now but Zoya logged content and themes in trending tik-toks every day for nine weeks documenting 2675 different viral videos so you’ll hear me reference some emerging insights from this project too. My aim for today is pretty simple I’d like to dig into a few current digital dilemmas teens facing and really make a case for rethinking three common instinctive reactions or thoughts that many adults have when it comes to teens and technology. And the reason that this is so important is because rethinking some of our assumptions sets the stage for acknowledging the dilemmas teens are facing and really providing more effective and relevant supports. So the first idea that we’re gonna reconsider and hopefully reframe for you is a thought that you may have had before while you’ve looked on at a teen typing furiously on their phone screen ugh which is a can’t you just get off your phone or why can’t you just get off your phone. One of the things that we have seen so clearly in our digital dilemmas project is how much pressure teens feel to stay constantly connected and available even at times when they don’t want to. Um we’ve been analyzing responses we collected for more than three thousand middle and high schoolers who described their worries and challenges about growing up with today’s technologies and one of the themes is this true pressure that they feel to stay connected to others and their descriptions reveal a sense that failing to be reachable can actually threaten friendships and relationships that they really care about. Before you roll your eyes at this idea even if it’s tempting it’s worth pausing to think about this with a developmental lens in mind so friends and peer relationships are especially crucial and valued during adolescence um and teens are primed to really want to protect relationships that are important to them and to avoid what they see as anything that could threaten closeness and intimacy. So with this framing in mind consider a few prototypical quotes that we heard from youth and our research. They say things like I feel like if you’re not connected then the friendship will fall apart. If you don’t text your friends for a while then they just come up with the dumbest excuse to cut you off. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings if I can’t stay in touch with them. Another related theme that we see clearly in our data is the burden that teens feel to stay available for friends who they know are struggling so they say things like my biggest worry is that I don’t have enough contact with front with friends who are struggling because I don’t want my friends to do something bad just because I didn’t respond in time to stop them from harming themselves or worse. So think about this burden on the shoulders on the shoulders of a young teen who’s being told just put down your phone and and disconnect. It’s also really interesting to think about these quotes in light of some other data so acknowledging that that you don’t have context on the samples that I’m about to refer to I want to just say that we asked in our project different groups of youth educators and parents to weigh in on their knee-jerk reaction to a number of different prompts and dilemmas. Like this one being a good friend means being available whenever your friend needs you and we actually used seven-point scales in our survey but I’m gonna simplify the responses here just to give you a glimpse into a relevant trend. So across all three groups a majority of people agreed that being a good friend means being available whenever your friend needs you and we see this even more strongly among the adolescent group where 71% endorse a statement and this is noteworthy because it means even if your team doesn’t hold this view it suggests that many of their friends probably do and therefore expect that being a good friend means that that they will be available whenever they’re needed. This idea of being available for friends being a good friend it might be nice in theory but what does it actually mean in a world where we have the potential of having 24/7 access to one another? It can really pit the values of disconnecting for self care and our own well-being against the idea of wanting to be kind and compassionate. So all values that we tell kids and teens are really important. Interestingly look at the data for a different but related idea. If someone texts you you should respond as quickly as possible. Here we see a shift a majority of adults disagree and youth are divided. So we saw before most people think that being a good friend means being available whenever your friend needs you but we’re less clear about what kind of response time this actually requires and teens in particular are divided here and this is a confusion that we hear coming through in their more open-ended descriptions as well. I wanted to share this just to acknowledge really that the norms and expectations are not so clear when it comes to reconciling what it means to be a good friend in a digital age and how much connection is too much. What’s reasonable, what’s desirable, and even what’s expected and right now we’re in a pandemic and teens are facing a very typical developmental drive to preserve and protect their closeness with friends but during a very atypical moment when many of the usual occasions they would have for hanging out and making inside jokes are displaced because of the ways that were social distancing. Just to be clear this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for occasions to help teens disconnect in fact it can definitely be a relief for teens to have times a day when they aren’t totally offline as Kara mentioned, but hopefully just having this framing can spark a bit of empathy and understanding about some of the pressures that they might be feeling that can make it hard to unplug and can shift us away from what Kara described I love the idea of avoiding a Blamey and Shamy approach. The second idea I want to talk about relates to this question what are you even doing on there, which many of us have probably looked on and wondered before tik tok has obviously become a big part of what many teens are doing behind their screens as Linda said earlier and I want to share a bit about what we’re seeing in the viral tik tok study. Particularly because a lot of adults seem to have a super negative view of tik tok in lecture what we see in the viral content is people coping with the current moment through circumstantial humor or sharing moments of their everyday lives in ways that are relatable and really give a sense of connection during this time of isolation. So this includes viral videos featuring family members together in a lot of cases and I wanted you to show you one example I think Kelly’s gonna cue up the video quickly for those of you who aren’t on tik-tok just give you a taste of some of this content and so this is a video of a dad who was sharing how he recreated Splash Mountain for his daughter after their trip to Disneyland was canceled and just check out he has a little spritz bottle in his hand watch that as we watch this short video. Thanks Kelly. Of course there are also tons of videos of viral videos of dances where people are doing their own renditions of dance moves choreographed to trending songs and there’s a lot of content like this where teens are creating and we are really recreating dances that they’ve seen so this is an example of a tik-tok or charlie go ahead Kelly. Thanks I think if you stop sharing your screen I’ll be able to jump back on. Great. Let’s jump back in to present. So I wanted to just share these examples in part because it’s a lot of what we’re seeing but also it’s it’s interesting and noteworthy we’ve for years heard adults lamenting that social media has made teens sedentary or seems to be killing creativity and interfering with family relationships and now we have a study where we’re seeing examples of teens up and learning dance videos creating content with their siblings and this is certainly not to say that it’s all positive on tik-tok definitely not and we have to acknowledge that the content that a particular teen sees on their feed is individualized and driven by algorithms. So I’m not suggesting this kind of viral content is an indicator of what your teens tik-tok experience is like but I just wanted to acknowledge that it’s not all negative there’s fun funny relatable content and it is really worth asking teens about what they do and see on the platform with a more open mind to what might be true positives for them and ways that it can be fun or make them feel connected again during this time of a lot of isolation. With that said I want to also acknowledge two digital dilemmas relevant to tik-tok and social media during COVID. The first is how hard it can be for teens to regulate their habits and how much I’m they’re spending on the plot on a particular platform. So even if the content they’re looking at is fun and uplifting like the videos we just watched and the total time spent might be bringing them down. So this this video screenshot is from a pilot that Kari James and I worked on with Common Sense Media for an activity that we’ve been developing and testing around habits and we have teens first actively think about and reflect on all of their digital habits everything that’s part of their digital routine that’s become the default or the norm and then we have them choose one habit that they want to change so that’s really important we don’t tell them which habit they should change. They choose it for themselves and then they come up with a personal challenge that they that they do while they document their progress over a week or two. Um so this teen the my tik-tok withdrawal video and this team was trying to curb her tik-tok use and her documentary style reporting really acknowledged how hard it was for her to cut back to just one and a half or two hours a day. Um and I wanted to mention this example because we found that while teens often resist top-down rules off the bat so us telling them um cut back your tik-tok use or keep your phone in this particular place during this particular time older teens in particular can be quite aware of the habits that are problematic for them and in our work with teens we’ve found that if we start off by asking teens what digital habits they want to change um it can help to really get more buy-in right off the bat. Um and then we’re in a position also to be able to help them come up with strategies and supports for I’m actually sticking to the habits that they’ve said they want to change. Another dilemma we’ve been hearing we’ve been hearing about over the last few weeks it’s just a challenge of teens seeing photo or video evidence of friends together blatantly violating social distancing, which is really tricky and raises dilemmas for families who are adhering more strictly to distancing and this really connects to the normal developmental drives I mentioned earlier to want to protect and preserve closeness with your friends and remember teens have in many cases felt more disconnected than their friends probably at any other moment and while there aren’t easy answers here I think if we recognize this concern on this underlying desire to really feel close to people that they care about and protect that that intimacy we can prioritize empathy and our conversations um but also work with teams to brainstorm ways that they might connect with their friends that feel really meaningful even if they’re from a distance and that really get at that underlying drive and motivation. Lastly, I wanted to speak to the well-intentioned impulse of shouting at teens to think before you post or or relatedly doubling down on the message that every text snap or Instagram picture can be public and permanent. It’s not that these aren’t really important invaluable messages they definitely are, but navigating digital footprints is often much more complicated than these messages assume and our research with teens suggests that this kind of caution can even backfire and amplify their anxiety. One one reason for this is the reality of pure co-construction which is essentially the idea that friends and peers can post content that a teen doesn’t want online and wouldn’t have chosen to post. So they are the peers are actually Co constructing their digital footprints they’re not the sole authors and this suggests that they’re not always in as much control of their digital footprints as a comment like think before you post suggest. I also want to describe another reason that this message can fall short using our recent example related to black lives matter. So Forbes reported that on Tuesday June 2nd more than 28 million people posted black squares on their Instagram accounts. You may have seen some of these and the trend began according to the New York Times as an attempt by the music industry to pause business as usual in response to the protests yet it quickly shifted into people posting black boxes on their own feeds to show solidarity and support and then to people posting black boxes and writing that they were muting themselves for a variety of reasons um which included white folks saying that they were quieting their own voices in an effort to amplify black voices on social media. So if you imagine that you’re a teen social media and you see these squares and perhaps you see a message about what they mean that really resonates with you and your desire to support black lives matter and the movement and maybe you want to show support for your support for the protest so you decide to post a square on your own feed, but then you start to see people saying that the square is actually backfiring and this was one concern that people were using the hashtag black lives matter along with these posts and that they because of that they were actually drowning out important and relevant information that black lives matter activists were trying to get out. Or perhaps you see someone, again something that that came up, for happy perhaps you see someone saying that if you identify as black you definitely shouldn’t be silencing your voice and even people suggesting that maybe this whole movement was a tactic from those who opposed black lives matter to mute or slow the movement down during a crucial moment. Or maybe you see people saying that posting a square is just an obvious act of self-centered virtue signaling and it really doesn’t help anyone. So you’re a teen who posted a black square earlier in the day and suddenly you feel like you’ve done something very wrong now you’re trying to decide what to do next should you delete it, even though you know people have already seen it. Should you leave it? Should you post something else? Maybe you’re watching this entire a black square trend unfold and you’re a teen who identifies as a person of color now watching peers who you’ve never known to care about systemic racism suddenly posting black squares on their feeds and it feels really disingenuous and infuriating. These are all real emotions and dilemmas and tensions that teens are facing right now behind their screens. We’re in a moment when social media is playing a major role in a defining movement and teens are engaging with black lives matter in different ways. Seeing different kinds of content and making sense of it in different ways related to their identities and these dilemmas are current and I think it’s probably clear to you also why they’re not easily resolved by messages to simply think before you post. That really doesn’t help teens navigate the full breadth of challenges and tensions that they face in this landscape. I felt I needed to make this point explicitly in part because we as we’ve looked at the messages adults share with teens about social media they so often emphasize this kind of caution or specific warning. These are all real quotes from adults in our study describing well-intentioned messages that they share with teens about social media. At a minimum I hope you can recognize the complexity of the digital landscape and the need for conversations and guidance that go beyond the impulse of just saying that what you do online can’t be erased. So, I hope you’ll think of this as an invitation to ask ask teens in your life about what they’re seeing and how they’re thinking about the content they see and share during this really important moment. Just to close out if I were to sum if I were to try and sum up everything that I just shared in one take-home message and it would be this empathy over eye-rolling. So we need to have conversations about technology with the teens in our lives and also to approach these conversations with this attitude of empathy over eye-rolling. For sure the eye-rolling is tempting and understandable, but when we prioritize empathy and really acknowledge the positive and the pressures that they face we set the stage for being able to help them navigate the very real tensions of the current moment. Thanks. Larry back to you.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: thanks. Yeah there we go um thanks very much Emily. I really appreciate seeing someone reframe a problem and I like the way you reframed it as digital dilemmas rather than major problems. I see a lot of I talk to a lot of parents and probably at five times a week I get long email messages from parents describing their kids what’s going wrong sometimes say I you know I would try to keep the phone away from the kids an hour before they go to bed time and then we come in at 3:00 in the morning and their phones back on the bed and what do we do and the thing I hear from many parents is what did I do wrong? And I think that that’s that’s a difficult question to ask but however you talk to a parent when they said to you what did I do wrong?
[Dr. Emily Weinstein]: Yeah I mean I think one of the benefits of you know if a background in developmental science and I think it’s it’s for me as a parent I know it’s so liberating because I can think about everything that I’m experiencing in the context of what’s going on developmentally and recognize that these are really normal drives that are I don’t have a teem but that are in many cases intersecting with super powerful and compelling technologies. So we think about the the very typical adolescent drive to connect to want to connect with friends to want to seek feedback technology did not create these features of adolescents, but for sure it’s it’s intersecting with an amplifying them in powerful ways. So I think just recognizing first that this is not this is not something of your creation in many cases, but also that we do have a really important role to play and I think it isn’t always possible for sure, but when there are occasions to really get teens buy-in I think that can be incredibly powerful. We’ve just seen so so consistently that um when that is a possible starting point like having kids having teens really identify and buy into the problem you’re trying to solve um it’s it’s really helpful in and one of the things that one of the things that can help do that is actually talking to teens about the barriers and the reasons that they’re not adhering to a rule. Because in some cases they’ll then acknowledge a challenge or a pressure that they feel that’s very addressable. So if you think about the example of like parents I’m saying okay it’s dinner everyone’s put put your phone away and maybe in your house dinner happens at a slightly different time every night and so it feels really sudden and you think about the dilemmas I raised earlier um teens suddenly feel like their phone is out of their hand and they didn’t get time to tell their friends that they’re gonna be offline. And you might feel like that’s completely unnecessary but it can be as simple as if you understand that that’s the barrier and it might be as simple as recognizing a 15-minute warning to wind down conversations and tell friends that you’re gonna pause is actually enough to change the buy-in to the rule or the family practice. So that’s just one example of course not always possible but I think when it is at least starting there can be really helpful can be a really helpful strategy.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks I have a question maybe for Linda here, but I think is relevant to what what she’s been talking about and doing. During COVID 19 parents became teachers and they had to spend a lot of time homeschooling home teaching their kids and when they weren’t home teaching, which by the way was a horrendous nightmare I tried doing it with our grandkids a couple days to help their parents out and and I was thoroughly exhausted by about eight o’clock at night willing them to go to sleep so I could go to sleep, but what a lot of parents are doing I think during COVID 19 being sheltered is allowing their kids to use their technology more. A lot of reasons, there’s a lot of reasons for that, but I think one is is that the parents just need a break and is this a problem because what we’re seeing in some of the the early data that we’ve been collecting with screen time is that instead of four and a half hours a day on their on their smartphone they’re spending 9 10 11 hours a day on their smartphone. What are your thoughts about this? is what can parents do to to kind of balance their their kids lives here?
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: Yes depends on the household to I mean I I know it’s some some data that we were looking in in terms of the amount of gaming that’s happening nowadays you know in terms of giving parents a break and and being on technology for hours at end. It’s not like the quantity of time that they’re on it it’s actually if they are getting meaningful social interactions with their with their close friends on discord you know. If they’re doing that for eight hours and and it’s not displacing time away from meals and anytime and getting exercise and doing other things that take care of themselves then maybe it’s not something to worry about in terms of that quantity, but I think it’s really all about what are the interactions that are happening are they are they going and they don’t have any close gaming friends to be with and so they go online and get some strangers that maybe maybe adults in another country to like come and play with them and maybe they’re gonna start you know grooming them to you know do things for them to give them the bucks for their games. So so just the fact that they’re on games it’s not the problem. It’s more about are you are you able to know and monitor who they’re interacting with what’s the purpose are they connected with other people that they know and continue with a relationship or are they you know spending hundreds of dollars on games talking someone with your credit card unfiltered unmonitored. So yeah I think I think it is it’s a strange time where a lot of these rules have probably been relaxed and there’s a lot of guilt going around with parents with that, but I think technology remember it’s not necessarily an evil thing it’s a tool it’s a tool that could be used for the good of society it could be used as a distraction it could be used for educational purposes and so even just thinking about technology in general as not just the enemy like it could be it could be your friend you know during this time to give you a break but also you know you know so I I think it’s it’s not all or nothing.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks Linda I have a bigger question a bigger issue question and that is teenagers are an incredibly volatile time of social development cognitive development all forms of development. Spending more time on social media maybe affecting that they may be seeing things that are before their developmental age before their developmental abilities. How do each of you think that social media itself is driving development in teens preteens and teens? Let’s let’s see how about Kara you get to you need to tackle that one first.
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Sure happy to um you know so I think it’s yeah it’s hard so I do think kids are probably exposed some things like there’s data on like early exposure to pornography for example right. So kids may see pornography or sexually explicit things and inappropriate age, but there’s also data to suggest that kids are sort of developmentally slowed by being sort of so digitally connected. So again there’s not there’s no data really like rigorous data looking at causality and that social media cause they causes things, but there are there are data showing associations between rise and social media use and you know like for example kids not driving as early right so not getting their drivers license by age 16. So really delaying it in a totally young adulthood. Right kids aren’t moving out of their homes they’re living with their parents longer. Things like that where we we expect adolescents teenagers to sort of individuate, start to develop some autonomy. Things like that we do see that kids are doing that later and sort of in my area of substance use other than sort of marijuana use and the vaping, use of substances and teens are going down. Which I think is sort of driven by the fact that substance use is really a social activity kids would get together like in person and use drugs. So if you’re sitting at home and looking at a screen then you’re not out partying with your friends and so it’s it’s good that they’re not using drugs, but it’s also bad that they’re actually not hanging out with their friends in person. So I do think that kids are sort of putting off becoming their own people individuating from their parents um but you know and also engaging in sort of mentally appropriate behaviors.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks Kara, Emily what are your thoughts about this.
[Dr. Emily Weinstein]: I really appreciate Kara’s sort of taking a generational perspective. I think also a great compliment to that is thinking about just on an individual level and Linda mentioned in her talk this idea of differential susceptibility so recognizing that individual kids are having really different experiences and that has to do with characteristics of those kids so their dispositions and what they’re actually bringing to their digital lives, characteristics of their actual social network, like who are they interacting with and is that a supportive network? Is that a network that makes them feel really anxious and vulnerable? But also their interests and what their what kinds of things they’re seeking out and in some cases that’s hugely positive and in other cases it’s really problematic. When those are just a few you know. Then then we we also know we have data data that show that even when teens look at the exact same content on social media they actually can interpret it in different ways so it might spark different kinds of thoughts and reactions. In some cases a teen might look at a picture of someone else in an amazing setting or doing something really cool and feel really inspired and another teen may look at that exact same image and feel really isolated and do a lot of social comparison and feel like their life just doesn’t measure up.So it’s worth just keeping this idea of differential susceptibility in mind as we try and understand and really grapple with the question about developmental impacts and because social media can really amplify, in some cases, for teens what’s going really well for them and what their strengths are and in other cases it can really amplify some of the challenges and vulnerabilities that they’re grappling with.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Thanks Emily. Linda I have a different question for you as we’re running out of time it’s something that that I’m really interested in um in terms of social media it can be pretty overwhelming. You can have it take a lot of time as we’ve all talked about it can take away from other activities, but one of the things that that we’re seeing in our research and pretty much I’ve seen it every other sleep research is that parents are being a little more lacs with and allowing them to take their phones to bed at night and we know that the the National Sleep Foundation says you must get rid of it out of your room an hour before bedtime instead of doing that they’re basically encouraging people are encouraging kids to do that which which may cause some problems. Do you have any thoughts about that?
[Dr. Linda Charmaraman]: Working on a paper I’m just that very topic in it and we’re looking at the idea that it’s throughout the content that you’re that you’re looking at I mean are you are you creating content are you scrolling and lurking and and being distressed by the state of the world right before bed? Are you looking at violent content or you you know are you trying to connect with somebody else so that you can feel better before you go to bed? So it all depends on the motivations and intentions of the the kind of things you’re doing on your phone before bed.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Okay um and again kind of a toss-up question, but I’ll but I’ll start with Kara in terms of social media and in terms of what it’s doing to us maybe long-term you have mentioned brain research that you’re doing and I I’m fascinated with brain research just because I think it’s kind of where the field of psychology is going what do you think are the long-term results on kids that are that are basically spending a lot of their time doing virtual communication doing off off the face-to-face kind of communication that we usually have? Are there negative consequences into the brain or with changing or brains?
[Dr. Kara Bagot]: Yeah so it’s hard those studies have not been done at all by anybody. Um you know and so we do know though that any activity that we engage in any sort of repetitive activity does change the way that our brain sort of especially during adolescence changes the structure and the function of the brain. You know during adolescence is this really with the key period in time for sort of brain development and so anything that we do frequently during adolescence is going to lead to changes in them in the brain. And so whether that be social media use, if that’s drug use whatever it is so I do think that long term it will have some impact the brain is very plastic though, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the impact is gonna be long-standing. It doesn’t that necessarily mean that you’ll have long-standing detrimental effects, but I do think for teenagers that are on social media for four five six seven hours a day. It will have some impact on the brain just because of the period of development that they’re in, but we don’t have the studies to actually prove that.
[Dr. Larry Rosen]: Well thank you very much to all three of you I’m going to hand it back to Pam.
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Thank you very much thank you all for coming and for asking such insightful questions and thank you so much Larry, Kara Emily, and Linda for a fantastic workshop that will no doubt be the conversation topic at many dinner tables this evening please share the YouTube video you’ll receive of today’s workshop with your fellow parents, teachers, clinicians, researchers and friends our discussions of that digital meeting youths and children’s well-being will continue throughout the summer with weekly Wednesday workshops. Next week on Wednesday July 8th at noon EDT we will host a conversation about technology addiction. You won’t want to miss it. Following that on Wednesday July 15th our experts will share insights into screens and mental health and provide tips on how to help your children and teens thrive. When you leave the workshop you’ll receive a link to a short survey. Please click on the link and let us know what you thought of the workshop today. You’ll also be invited to sign up for our next workshops at the end of the survey and you can find out more information about those on our website Children and Screens.com. Thanks again and everyone stay safe and be well.