The Effect of Social Media on Adolescent Girls


Term Paper, 2016
47 Pages, Grade: 97.0

Free online reading

Table of Contents

Abstract

List of Tables & Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Topic

Problem Statement

Professional Significance

Overview of Methodology

Delimitations

Definition of Terms

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Impact On Attitudes

Impact On Behavior

Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology

Chapter 4: Results of the Study

Chapter 5: Discussion

Conclusion

References

List of Tables & Figures

Figure 1: Social Media Sites Used

Figure 2: Years Active on Social Media

Figure 3: Daily Time Spent on Social Media

Figure 4: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 1

Figure 5: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 2

Figure 6: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 3

Figure 7: The Effect Of Continued Use on Behavioral Changes

Figure 8: Reports of Social Media Related Bullying

Figure 9: How Adolescents Access Social Media

Figure 10: Ages of Respondent’s Children Active on Social Media

Figure 11: Overall Parental Sentiment Regarding Social Media Usage

Abstract

Social media has completely transformed the way we communicate, form and nurture relationships, and interact with the people in our lives. For adolescents growing up as digital natives, social media usage can serve as a unique obstacle to their emotional and behavioral development as they continue to try to master such tasks as effective communication, emotional regulation, impulse control and identify formation in what is essentially a virtual reality. This paper examines the effect social media has on the attitudes and behavior of adolescent girls and attempts to identify some of the major concerns their participation raises. Utilizing data from peer-reviewed journals, case studies, and independent surveys, we examine some of the major impacts social media usage has on young female users including changes in self-esteem, responsibility, levels of aggression and academic performance. The results of the study are analyzed and presented for parents, teachers and caregivers to consider in approaching the topic of social media usage with the adolescents in their lives.

Keywords: Social Media, Facebook, Adolescents

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Topic

Over the past 15 years, the channels through which we socialize and express ourselves have changed drastically with the continued advancement of mobile technology. As of 2016, 91% of the U.S. own a cellular phone, and of these, 61% own a smartphone. An expected 1,000,000,000 mobile phones are anticipated to be sold this year, more than double that of personal computers, resulting in 1.4 mobile devices per person on the planet and nearly 40 hours spent per person, per month, engaged with mobile applications. (Gadzecki, 2014) With such a dramatic shift in communication, entertainment, and social interaction, one is left to ponder the effect these new technologies have on children and young adults. Are these new communication styles more helpful or harmful then we may have previously considered? What effect do these technologies have on the self-esteem, temperament and the overall well-being of those who have grown up with them? Researching the impact that mobile technology has on adolescents is essential in helping us understand and address the unique challenges the mobile generation face.

The current generation of adolescents and young adults are growing up in a time where mobile technology and social media usage is as common as microwave ovens and televisions were to the previous generation. Children as young as eight communicate with friends via text and email, follow classmates on Facebook and Twitter, and share personal photos and videos to apps like Instagram and SnapChat. According to the Pew Research Center, 78% of teenagers currently have a cell phone and nine in ten teens either own a computer or have access to one at home. (2013) This overwhelming prevalence of mobile and social media access has created a generation presented with never before seen obstacles in their social interactions, relationships, identity formation, and most disturbingly, the way personal problems and disputes are addressed and handled.

Problem Statement

In this mobile era, one of unprecedented candor and accessibility, a set of challenges unique to the mobile generation has manifested. Ordinary adolescent teasing has evolved into online harassment and cyberbullying, schoolyard brawls are now recorded and posted on Youtube and social networks in an attempt to gain popularity, and Facebook depression has become commonplace among adolescents who continually compare their ‘behind the scenes’ to the rest of the world's highlight reels. These marked changes in the behavior and demeanor of the current generation make it imperative to explore the full impact of social media on those growing up attached to it, particularly adolescent girls. Why does social media usage seem to lead to lower self-esteem and increased feelings of depression? What role does social media participation play in the uptick in violence and bullying? Does social media usage lead to adverse behavioral changes in young girls? This project will attempt to ascertain the correlation between mobile and social media usage and the increase in destructive thoughts and behavior among adolescent girls.

Professional Significance

With this project serving as the culmination of my baccalaureate studies in Social Science, many of my core courses have been heavily focused in the field of psychology, with a particular emphasis in child psychology. These courses have contributed to considerable interest in the study of cognitive development and behavior in children and young adults. Undoubtedly, something as central as mobile technology and social media in the lives of adolescents has a profound impact on their social and cognitive development. As I complete my baccalaureate studies and prepare to work toward a Masters in Education, understanding the impact these technologies have upon the children immersed in them will provide valuable insight into the specific challenges the mobile generation face. This research will hopefully serve as a framework for the formulation of ideas and solutions to confront and overcome those obstacles, not only for those I encounter professionally but for my own children as well.

Overview of Methodology

In examining the effect of mobile technology on adolescent girls, my primary research tool will be academic journals. Over the last 5-10 years, numerous articles have been written and studies conducted which analyze various aspects of mobile technology and social media and the effect of their usage on teenagers. These studies include the impact of social media on self- esteem, how social media influences body image ideals, the role technology plays in adolescent depression and how social media has contributed to bullying and violence. The research will also include statistics and data from case studies conducted by reputable organizations in addition to the results of a small-scale survey conducted among parents of teenagers active on social networking platforms. This blend of research methods allows for a multi-pronged approach that contributes to the overall balance of the results.

Due to the unique set of circumstances they face, the scope of this project is limited to the effect mobile technology and social media has on adolescent girls, particularly concerning their self-esteem and social interactions. Research specific to boys is not included in order to ensure the concerns of adolescent girls are suitably addressed in the research. With regard to methodology, surveys were conducted on a small-scale, online-only basis. This ensured that results were received, data analyzed and appropriate conclusions reached during the 12-week research period.

Definition of Terms

Cyberbullying - The use of electronic communication to bully, harass or embarrass a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating, threatening or inflammatory nature.

Facebook Depression - Facebook Depression is a depression that develops when preteens and teenagers spend a significant amount of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and subsequently begin exhibiting classic symptoms of depression.

Mobile Technology - Mobile technology is technology used for cellular communication. This can include cellular phones or tablet devices such as an iPad or Kindle. These devices are used to make phone calls, texts, and connect to applications that allow social interaction.

Social Media - Social Media is any type of application or website that allow people to create, share, and exchange information, ideas, pictures/videos in personal virtual networks. Websites like Facebook and Twitter and applications such as Instagram and SnapChat are examples of social media.

This project will study the effects of mobile technology and social media usage among adolescents girls. The research will seek to uncover and understand the relationships between significant mobile and social media consumption and its effect on the interactions, behavior, selfesteem and mental health of young female users. Research and data from academic journals, case studies and social media surveys will be compiled and analyzed to understand what, if any, relationship exists between social media usage and low self-esteem, increased violence and bullying, and negative, attention-seeking behavior in adolescent girls.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The remarkable impact social media has had on day to day communication and interaction is something that is incontrovertible. Wherever we go, from school to the workplace, public transportation or sporting events, even out to dinner and in bathrooms, everyone around us can be seen hovering over phones documenting their lives or following someone else’s documentation of theirs. This new way of communicating and connecting has produced a generation that is often engrossed with sharing their lives rather than enjoying them, documenting precious moments as opposed to living in them, and, most pertinent to our research, staging their lives to appear more exciting than they are. This shift in communication and human interaction has led to drastic changes in the attitude and behavior of those engaged with it. Moreover, it presents adolescents who are growing up in this era, while still learning to communicate and socialize efficiently, with a unique set of obstacles as they attempt to master these skills in a virtual reality, one that stifles, if not completely halts, the development of their social skills.

Impact On Attitudes

The impact of social media on the attitudes of young users can be seen in many different areas, from the child’s levels of self-esteem to feelings about personal relationships. One of the first changes in attitudes caused by social media usage is a desire to avoid instances of communication with those around us. According to research released by the Pew Research Center, 47% of young smartphone owners used their phone as a means to “avoid interacting with the people around them” at least once during a one week study period, roughly three times the amount of times older smartphone owners reported doing so. (Smith, 2015) While social media can be used to avoid contact with others, young users often find they are the ones being ignored. A new term coined cyberostracism refers to the feeling of being left out, ignored or excluded in social media environments. This feeling is common among young people who don’t receive the attention they desire from those in their social networks. Research has shown that being excluded in an online environment can be just as upsetting as experiencing exclusion offline and that these feelings of isolation can threaten a juvenile’s sense of belonging, (Allen et.al, 2014) one of the many ways social media can lower an adolescent's self-esteem.

Lowered self-esteem is one of the most harmful attitudes changes social media can induce in adolescents, and the origins of it are plentiful. One of the primary causes is the engagement in negative social comparison, or, comparing one’s day to day life to the “highlight reels” others publish to social media. Making these comparisons can cause girls to think less of their own lives, resulting in feelings of envy, inferiority, worthlessness, and depression. Psychologist Brian Feinstein explains the repercussions of this phenomenon, stating: “Girls and women who use social media to negatively compare themselves, their lives and their bodies to others, are engaging in repetitive negative thoughts about themselves, increasing their propensity for depression.” (Feinstein et al., 2013) This reality is particularly troublesome when we consider that, beginning around puberty females typically have higher rates of depression than males, with the gap only widening over the course of their development. This reality makes it imperative to shield adolescent girls from engaging in negative social comparison. (Carroll & Kilpatrick, 2011)

Another way in which social media contributes to lower self-esteem in adolescents is by being the victim of cyberbullying. Cyber bullying, which is the use of electronic communication to bully, harass or embarrass a person, has been shown to cause “higher levels of depression and anxiety for victims than traditional bullying.” Moreover, cyber bullying has also been connected to cases of youth suicide, with some teens even being told openly to “kill themselves” by online harassers. (Carroll & Kilpatrick, 2011).

In studying the effect of social media usage on mental health, Professor Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at California State University, conducted a study to determine if correlations could be found between social media use and precursors to mental health disorders in younger users. The results of his study indicated that regular social media usage in adolescents correspond to symptoms of many disorders, including narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. (Chamberlain, 2011) These findings reinforce data from other studies which show that teens who use social media the heaviest report feeling less fulfilled, often describe themselves as feeling sad or unhappy, routinely report suffering from boredom and get into trouble a lot. (Carroll & Kilpatrick, 2011)

Impact On Behavior

Because the developing prefrontal cortex of the teenage brain is still mastering tasks such as impulse control, emotional regulation and the assessment of consequences and risks (Allen, et. al, 2014), it is no surprise that adolescents are prone to inappropriate behavior on social media. Teenagers are routinely found engaging in various types of inappropriate conduct online including harassment, threats, glorification of drugs and violence and sexually suggestive or promiscuous behavior. Researcher Iolanda Tortajada conducted a study to determine the percentage of adolescents who post self-sexualized content to their social media profiles. Using a snowball sampling technique in a mixed methods investigation of 400 adolescents’ gender and online sexual self-presentations, Tortajada found that over 40% of males and females posted pictures in which they were half-clothed, wearing see-through garments, or wearing clothing items that were tight-fitting. (Tortajada, 2013)

Social media usage was also found to have an immediate impact on a person’s level of honesty and truthfulness. Psychologists associate this phenomenon to users having a desire to maintain an idealized image of themselves. According to research conducted by UK-based research group Custard, social media users were found to lie more than non-social media users and more than 75% of social media users admitted to lying about themselves on their social profiles. The study also found that 30% women admitted to “lying about doing something interesting when in reality they were at home alone,” and only 18% said that their Twitter and Facebook profiles accurately represented them. These numbers were found to be consistently higher in younger users.

Aside from physical behavior, social media usage is also found to have a prominent impact on academic performance. Professor Larry Rosen conducted a study in which he observed the study habits of nearly 300 students in increments of fifteen minutes, recording the amount of time each student spent studying consecutively before taking a break to check their text messages or social media profiles. According to Rosen, “Students who flipped back and forth between studying and such distractions had worse grades than those who stuck to their schoolwork until they were finished.” He added, “Whether they checked Facebook just one time during a 15-minute observation period even predicted worse grades. ” (Chamberlain, 2011) Additional findings show that social media users have a consistently lower grade point average than their counterparts who don’t use social media. Moreover, grade point averages continue to lower the heavier a user engages in social media.

The changes in attitude and behavior outlined above are just a few of the pitfalls young users of social media face as they learn to interact in an environment that can be vastly different from the realities they are used to. While these issues are not unique to adolescents, young users are much more susceptible to the harmful effect of social media usage as they continue to develop and nurture their self-identities.

Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology

This research project studies the effects of mobile technology and social media usage among adolescents girls. The goal of the project is to discover possible correlations between social media consumption and the behavior and self-esteem of adolescent girls. I employed several research methods in an attempt to present a balanced work, the results of which are easily replicable by researchers seeking to simulate or expound upon my findings.

Research Methodology

In discussing the selected topic, I address the following questions:

- What is the relationship between social media usage self-esteem levels in adolescent girls?

In seeking to answer this question, I referenced material from academic journals published over the last ten years which explore links between mobile and social media usage and levels of self- esteem and depression among young girls. More specifically, I compiled and analyzed a multitude of scholarly works that examine social media’s effect on attitudes, the phenomena of Facebook Depression, and body satisfaction levels in adolescent girls who are regularly active on social media.

- What effect does social media usage have on the behavior of adolescent girls?

To answer this question, I utilized multiple research methods to ensure arrival at an accurate conclusion. The first method was an independently conducted survey among parents who allow their daughters to use social media. Respondents were parents of girls ages 9-17 whose children currently use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. The survey, posed the following questions:

1. Which social media platforms does your child use?
2. How long has your child been active on social media?
3. How many hours a day do you estimate your child spends using social media?
4. What changes in behavior, either positive or negative, have you noticed in your child since they began using the websites/applications indicated in your response to question 1?
5. Has the behavior in response to the previous question escalated or lessened over time with continued use of social media?
6. Has your child been the victim of bullying that began or was carried out via social media?
7. Does your child access social media from a personal device or a family-owned one?
8. How old is your child?
9. What are your overall feelings regarding your child’s social media use?

Survey responses were collected and analyzed for trends in social media usage and parent-reported behavior. Additionally, the data was evaluated to determine correlations between child behavior and parental sentiment regarding social media usage, as well as the amount of time spent on social media and the types of behavioral changes reported. This information gave way to determining a possible link between social media usage and changes in adolescent behavior.

In addition to the results of the survey, the study includes research from relevant case studies that explore the long-term of effects of social media usage on adolescent behavior. These changes include transformations in attitude, demeanor and school performance in teens who regularly use social media. The studies also discuss how the continued and long-term use of social media affects those changes and whether they result in an increase or decrease in the behaviors.

- What role does social media participation play in the violence and bullying among girls ?

In exploring the relationship between social media usage and violence and bullying among adolescent girls, the study references existing research material which examines recent trends in bullying and aggressive behavior in young girls and how social media is being used to facilitate such conduct. The study also takes into account recent statistics regarding cyberbullying and aggression among girls, published by organizations such as the Pew Research Center and research departments of major universities.

The conclusions from the above questions provide the basis for answering my major question:

- What is the impact of mobile technology and social media usage on adolescent girls?

In answering this question, research and findings used to answer the previous questions are synthesized to reach a conclusion. Reference materials include statistics on bullying and violence among users of social media, academic journals and case studies that explore relationships between social media usage and behavioral changes in young girls, and the results of a survey of parents whose children use social media. This will formulate the conclusion regarding the impact of and social media usage on adolescent girls.

In seeking to determine the effect of social media and mobile technology on adolescent girls, my research will make use of data synthesized from several academic sources including academic journals, case studies, and statistics published by reputable research organizations. The study will also include the results of an independently conducted survey which will be analyzed to ascertain what, if any, relationship exists between social media usage and low self-esteem, increased violence and bullying and behavioral changes in adolescent girls.

Chapter 4: Results of the Study

The goal of this research project is to understand the effects of mobile technology and social media usage among adolescents girls. The project seeks to understand possible correlations between mobile technology and social media consumption and the behavior of young girls through the exploration of the following questions: What is the relationship between social media usage and self-esteem levels in adolescents? What effect does social media usage have on the behavior of young girls? What role does social media participation play in violence and bullying? These questions all serve as a basis to answer the major question: What is the impact of and social media usage on adolescent girls?

Results of the study

- What is the relationship between social media usage and self-esteem levels in adolescent girls?

For most teens, mobile and social media consumption is a constant in their lives. From sharing pictures and videos to keeping up with the latest events and information in their world, social media is, in essence, the new social life. With social media playing such a dominant role in the lives of the current generation, one must consider what impact this new social landscape has upon those engrossed in it, as adolescents struggle to develop and nurture their self-identities in what is essentially a virtual reality.

According to a journal article published by the American Psychological Association, problems with self-esteem stemming from social media usage arise when girls engage in what is known as social comparison. Social comparison, or comparing one's own life or appearance to what others share online, is found to be associated with rumination, which leads to lower self- esteem and increased symptoms of depression, specifically, what is often called, “Facebook Depression.” (Feinstein et al., 2013) The authors of the article, Brian Feinstein and his colleagues, discovered that the quality of one's Social Media usage was the most central determinant in whether social media usage would result in lowered self-esteem or other mental health outcomes in adolescent girls. Feinstein et al. writes: “Girls and women who use social media to negatively compare themselves, their lives and their bodies to others, are engaging in repetitive negative thoughts about themselves, increasing their propensity for depression.” (Feinstein et al., 2013).

In a 2011 study published by the University of Haifa, researchers conducted a study to determine the correlation between social media usage and body satisfaction in adolescent girls.

The study, conducted by Professors Yael Latzer, Ruth Katz and Zohar Spivak of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at the University of Haifa, was conducted among 250 girls ages 12-19. The results of the study revealed that the more time girls spent on social media, the more they suffered from conditions such as bulimia, anorexia, body dissatisfaction, negative self-image and negative approaches to eating. (Latzer, Katz & Spivak, 2011) Interesting, Yael et al. discovered that girls whose parents were actively involved in their social media usage, either by monitoring their accounts or befriending them on the networks, were more resilient to the adverse outcomes than girls whose parents were not involved in their social media exposure. (Latzer et al., 2011)

In addition to changes in self-esteem related to social comparison, Researchers Valkenburg, Peter & Schouten also discovered that the tone of the feedback received on an adolescents’ social networking profile had a pivotal impact on the teen's self-esteem. In a study of 881 adolescents, Valkenburg and colleagues found that when teens received predominantly negative interactions and feedback on their social profiles, - i.e., negative comments about their appearance - their self-esteem was decreased. Conversely, adolescents who received mostly positive feedback on their profiles experienced enhanced self-esteem, at least temporarily. (Valkenburg, Peter & Schouten, 2006)

- What effect does social media usage have on the behavior of adolescent girls?

To better understand the relationship between social media usage and behavioral changes in adolescent girls, I conducted a survey among 101 parents of girls ages 9-17. The study was designed to uncover possible correlations between social media usage and changes in behavior and self-esteem, both positive and negative. The questions at the beginning of the survey are designed to gather information about the girls social media usage, particularly the websites and applications frequented, the length of time (months or years) each girl has been active on social media and how long they use it each day. Thereafter, questions relate to how personal behavior has changed after becoming active on social media. The results of the survey are as follows:

Figure 1: Social Media Sites Used

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Figure 2: Years Active on Social Media

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Figure 3: Daily Time Spent on Social Media

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Figure 4: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 1

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Figure 5: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 2

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Figure 6: Behavioral Changes Observed After Social Media Use - 3

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Figure 7: The Effect Of Continued Use on Behavioral Changes

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Figure 8: Reports of Social Media Related Bullying

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Figure 9: How Adolescents Access Social Media

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Figure 10: Ages of Respondent’s Children Active on Social Media

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Figure 11: Overall Parental Sentiment Regarding Social Media Usage

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The results of the survey show that Facebook is the most popular social networking website among adolescent girls, with Instagram and Snapchat sharing the spot for the second most frequented, Twitter being the least popular of the top social networking platforms among the group. The study further showed that 72% of those surveyed reported that their daughters, ranging from ages 9-17, have been active users of social media for three years or more, with 64% spending at least 3 hours per day on social media. Of those, nearly 10% were reported as spending as many as 16 hours per day on social media websites and applications. More than 90% of adolescents were said to be using their own personal devices as opposed to a family-owned device.

Concerning behavioral changes related to social media usage, 40% of parents reported that their children deceased in how well they kept up with their various responsibilities since being active on social media, while 60% of parents reported no change at all in their child’s level of responsibility. Additionally, 44% of parents reported that their children had become less honest or trustworthy since joining social media, and 66% said no changes were observed. No parents reported increases in responsibility, honesty or trustworthiness. 45% of religious parents felt that their child’s level of devotion to religion had decreased since joining social media, while 18% reported an increase and 36% reported no changes.

The study further revealed that 50% of parents feel that social media usage has negatively impacted their children's academic performance. Interestingly, 30% of parents, particularly those with children over the age of 16, felt that their child performed better academically since joining social media. Self-esteem increases were reported by 22% of parents and a decrease in self- esteem was reported by 33% of parents. 50% of parents reported an increase in aggressive and hostile behavior since their child joined social media, with a further 37.50% reporting an increase in attention seeking or destructive behavior. No parents credited social media with contributing to a decrease in either behavior. 16% of parents reported that their child had been a victim of bullying that was either initiated or carried out on social media, while 50% of parents were unaware if such harassment had occurred. The last behavioral change parents reported was concerning the quality of familial relationships. 33% of parents indicated that the quality of their children’s relationships had decreased, while 22% stated that they had increased.

When asked about their overall feelings about their child’s social media usage, 58% of parents said that they preferred their child not use social media. Of those, 25% felt their child did use social media responsibly, and 34% reported that their child did not always use social media in a responsible way. A further 33% of parents felt that their children used social media responsibly and as such, they were fine with their child using it, and 8% of parents reported that, though their child does not always use social media responsibility, they had no problem with their child’s participation. No noticeable trends emerged in the ages of adolescents participating in social media, with ranges uniformly distributed over all age groups surveyed.

- What role does social media participation play in the violence and bullying among girls ?

In today’s social media age, where behavior often seems to be precipitated by the number of possible likes and shares a video of said action can garner, violence and bullying among adolescent girls is at an all-time high. Newspapers headlines regularly feature brutal tales of girl- on-girl violence, and a YouTube search for the term “girl fight” brings up 28,600,000 results.

What is it about the mobile era that has contributed to such an aggressive generation of adolescent girls?

According to data recently published by the Cyberbullying Research Center, over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and roughly the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. Moreover, 25% of adolescents and teens have repeatedly been bullied through their cell phones or the Internet, with girls being significantly more likely than boys to be involved in cyberbullying (40.6% for girls vs. 28.2% for boys). (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010) The center for disease control have joined all forms of electronic bullying under one umbrella, developing the term “electronic aggression,” a phrase which fully encompasses all types of violence and aggression that are initiated or carried out electronically.

Unfortunately, though a significant number of adolescents are victims of cyberbullying at some point, only 1 in 10 ever inform their parents of the bullying. (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010) This data affirms the findings of our survey, in which only 16% of parents were able to say definitively that their child had been a victim of cyberbullying.

In a study published by the Center for Disease Control, researchers found that youth who are victimized electronically are very likely also to be victimized off-line. (David-Ferdon & Hertz, 2009) Researchers affirm this notion, noting that those who bullied at school are often bullied online and those who bully at school also bully online. (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009) Cyberbullying and physical bullying often collide as tensions between the victim and bully escalate and spill over into offline aggression. The CDC reports that 47% of cyberbullying victims reported that the perpetrator was another student at his or her school. (David-Ferdon & Hertz, 2009)

Nancy Jo Sales, author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenager s, attributes the rise in aggression among teenaged girls to lowered inhibitions resulting from online communication. Nancy says:

It’s different to communicate from behind a screen, and this is true for adults as well. We know from multiple, multiple studies that when you communicate from behind a screen, you’re more likely to say things that you wouldn’t face to face. You’re more likely to become aggressive and even, some studies say, unethical. We have children now growing up on phones, learning to communicate with each other and be people from behind a screen in an environment in which it’s OK to do stuff that you wouldn’t do if you were with the person. (Sales, 2016)

These lowered inhibitions may also be linked to desensitization to violence witnessed through social media. Fight videos and cell-phone recordings of violent beatings are routinely shared across social media platforms and, more recently, several people were even murdered while streaming live on Facebook, the gruesome videos remaining available to watch indefinitely. Repeated exposure to these types of videos can have a damaging psychological effect on young people. Recent studies have begun to establish connections between recurrent exposure to violence via social media and adverse mental health outcomes in children and adolescents.

(Marcum et al., 2010, Ybarra, Espelage, et al., 2007 and Ybarra, West, et al., 2007).

Nevertheless, despite increasing concerns about social media and its effect on youth violence and bullying, aside from early studies and the opinions of experts in the field, research and empirical data establishing a solid connection between the two remain quite sparse.

Chapter 5: Discussion

Social media has become a constant presence in the daily life of the average teenager. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, the face of communication and socialization has completed changed over the last ten years. According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, 71% of teenagers actively use one or more social networking sites. Of those, 56% of teens say they go online several times a day, while 24% report being online “almost constantly.” (Lenhart, 2015) Due to its dominant presence in the lives of adolescents, the goal of this research project is to understand the effects of social media usage among young girls, particularly, to determine possible correlations between social media consumption and changes in the behavior and attitudes of adolescent girls.

Statement of Problem

In the current social media era, one of unprecedented candor and accessibility, a set of challenges unique to the mobile generation has manifested. Ordinary adolescent teasing has evolved into electronic harassment and cyberbullying, and schoolyard brawls are now recorded and posted online as a means of gaining popularity, and Facebook depression has become commonplace among adolescents who habitually compare their lives to the seemingly exciting, successful lives of those online. This shift in the behavior and demeanor of the current generation demands that we fully explore the impact social media is having on those growing up attached to it, particularly adolescent girls. Through this research I attempt to understand why social media usage seems to lead to lower self-esteem and increased feelings of depression, what role social media plays in the uptick in violence and bullying among girls, and if social media usage leads to adverse behavioral changes in adolescent girls.

Review of Methodology

Several methods were used to research correlations between social media participation and changes in the behavior and attitudes of adolescent girls. To understand the relationship between social media usage and self-esteem in young girls, academic journals that explore possible links between social media consumption and reports of lowered self-esteem and depression were consulted. In researching the impact social media has on the behavior and attitude of adolescent girls, an independent survey was conducted among parents of girls ages 9-17 who are active on social media. Finally, in researching the relationship between social media usage and violence and bullying in young girls, statistics and data published by reputable organizations regarding recent trends in bullying and aggressive behavior in girls were reviewed and analyzed.

Summary of Results

The research conducted during this project resulted in arrival at the following conclusions:

- What is the relationship between social media usage and self-esteem levels in adolescent girls?

The results of the study indicate that social media’s effect on the self-esteem of adolescent girls is largely influenced by both the duration and the manner in which social media websites platforms are used. Girls whose online network consist mostly of supportive peers who provide positive interaction are much less likely to suffer from low self-esteem or other mental health outcomes when using social media. Favorable interactions can include receiving compliments or encouraging feedback on photos and posts or engagement with updates, such as likes or shares. Conversely, those who regularly receive negative comments or interactions, especially concerning their appearance or other personal attributes, are much more likely to experience lowered self-esteem as a result of social media participation. Moreover, the longer an adolescent girl endures these type of negative interactions, the more her self-esteem continues to lower over time.

In addition to those faced with negative social media interaction, self-esteem is also found to be lower in girls who engage in what is called social comparison, or, the act of comparing their appearance, bodies and personal lives with what others share online. Because social media often presents an idealized version of one’s appearance or personal life, girls routinely compare their own, average lives with the stylized lives and appearances of peers and celebrities, much of which are aggrandized and staged for social media attention. These comparisons cause girls to think less of their lives, resulting in feelings of envy, inferiority, and worthlessness, culminating in symptoms of depression (often referred to as “Facebook Depression.” (Feinstein et al., 2013) Interestingly, studies have shown that gender differences do exist with regard to social comparison. These studies have consistently found that males tend to believe that they are more intelligent, athletic, creative, and smarter than others, whereas women regular see themselves at the same level or below others on most levels. (Steers, Wickham & Acitelli, 2014) These differences in social comparison between males and females result in a higher rate of self-devaluation and depressive symptoms as a result of social media usage among girls.

- What effect does social media usage have on the behavior of adolescent girls?

The results of the research into this question revealed that changes in the behavior and attitudes of adolescent girls active on social are most often negative, with positive changes of any type very rarely reported. In a survey conducted among 101 parents of girls ages 9-17 who are active on social media, a number of questions were posed to try to understand the effect its usage has had on their behavior. Parents reported many negative behavioral changes once their daughters began using social media, and these behaviors were often reported to worsen over time as social media use continued. The first declines were reported concerning personal responsibility. In this category, 40% of parents indicated that their child’s level of responsibility had declined once they became active on social media. An additional 44% of parents felt that their children had become less truthful, while 45% of religious parents said that their child’s level of devotion to and practice of their religion had decreased.

The study further revealed that 50% of parents felt that their children’s academic performance had been negatively impacted by social media usage, and 33% felt their child suffered from lower self-esteem. Most disturbingly, 49% of parents reported an increase in aggressive or hostile behavior since their daughter joined social media, with a further 37.50% reporting an increase in attention seeking or destructive behavior. No parents credited social media with contributing to a decrease in either behavior. 16% of parents answered that their child had been a victim of bullying that was either initiated or carried out on social media, and 50% of parents were unaware if such harassment had occurred. The last changes reported were shifts in the quality of relationships with other family members, with 33% of parents saying that the quality of their child’s familial relationships had decreased, while 22% felt that they had increased.

- What role does social media participation play in the violence and bullying among girls ?

Despite increasing concerns related to social media and its effect on youth violence and bullying, little research and empirical data exist which establish a definitive connection between the two. Even so, the results of the study did reveal several probable connections between social media usage and an increase in violence and bullying among young girls. According to Author Nancy Jo Sales, one of the primary ways social media contributes to increased violence is through lowered inhibitions resulting from online communication. Electronic communication, such as email, social networking, and text, act as a protective barrier between a person and those with whom they communicate. This barrier creates an environment in which a person feels comfortable saying things he or she would never say in normal, face-to-face communication. These lowered inhibitions result in bullying, harassment, and threats that often culminate in offline confrontations. These findings are confirmed by data published by the Center for Disease Control, in which researchers found that youth who are victimized electronically are very likely also to be victimized off-line. (David-Ferdon & Hertz, 2009) Moreover, those who are bullied at school are often bullied online, and those who bully at school also bully online. (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009). ] In 2012, nearly 50% of students reported being the victims of bullying online. Of those, middle school children who were victims of cyberbullying were reported to be almost twice as likely to attempt suicide. (Luxton, June, & Fairall, 2012)

Additional research suggests that violence and bullying among young girls may be linked to a desensitization to violence caused by repeated exposure to it through social media. Violence is regularly shared across social media in the form of schoolyard brawls, gang fights, police brutality and other acts of aggression. More recently, several people have even been murdered while streaming live to Facebook, the gruesome videos remaining available to watch indefinitely. While repeated exposure to violence in television, movies, and video games is known to have a harmful effect on children, recent research has shown that the same is true for online exposure to violence. According to studies, repeated exposure to violence via social media can have a damaging psychological effect on young people, resulting in adverse mental health outcomes in children and adolescents. (Marcum et al., 2010, Ybarra, Espelage, et al., 2007) Based upon the research above, we can surmise that the upward trend in violence and bullying among young girls is negatively impacted by lowered inhibitions resulting from online communication and recurrent exposure to fighting and violence via social media.

Relationship of Research to the Field

The objective of this project was to discover and examine links between social media participation and changes in the attitudes and behavior of adolescent girls. The results of the study, particularly that of the independent survey, show strong correlations between social media usage and an increase in negative behavior. The results support existing research that suggests social media usage, while having some positive attributes, has an overwhelmingly negative impact on adolescents. The project presented data which illustrates that social media is often associated with an increase in negative behavior among teens who use it while contributing to increases in symptoms of depression, aggression and instances of destructive behavior.

A survey conducted by the University of Salford revealed that 53% of respondents reported that their use of social media sites had changed their behavior, with 51% of those saying the changes to their conduct were negative. (Donnelly, 2012) Additional research which explored links between social media usage and academic performance found that Facebook users typically study 1-5 hours per week, compared to 11 hours for non-users, and users of Facebook had an average GPA of 3.06, while non-users had an average GPA of 3.82. (Owusu-Acheaw & Larson, 2015)

The negative effects of social media are not limited to users who engage heavily, rather, as recent research has shown, simply interacting with social media regularly increases the likelihood of being negatively impacted exponentially. The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse found that teenagers who regularly interact with social media are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana as those who do not. (CASA, 2011)

The results of this research further uncovered negative impacts with regard to selfesteem, bullying, violence, and responsibility, lending further credence to existing research which illustrates social media’s negative effect on these areas among adolescence.

Discussion of Results

The results of the study highlight many compelling and several alarming impacts of social media participation among adolescents. While social media is certainly not something that can be considered entirely negative, having many benefits such as networking, maintaining contact with long-distance friends and relatives and raising awareness for important causes, it is evident that among adolescents, the negative aspects almost always outweigh the positive ones. In explaining why this is, Family Counselor Jennifer Cline reveals that many negative behaviors emanate from a decreased awareness of others while using social media, something that causes one to develop a sense of deindividuation. She writes:

According to psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who studies personal responsibility and group behavior, this phenomenon is strongly fostered in situations that provide some level of anonymity. It involves a diminished sense of individuality and, consequently, a reduction in the sense of personal responsibility, leading to behavior that is incongruent with one’s personal standards of conduct. In other words, deindividuation means we are more likely to engage in socially inappropriate or self-serving behaviors when we do not feel that our behaviors are closely associated with our identity. (Cline, 2014)

After conducting interviews with 55 adolescents and young adults who actively use social media, Cline noted that most respondents regularly observed users posting things hey would never say in real life, including “inappropriate self-disclosures, aggressive comments, rude insults and extremist opinions.” In this way, Cline likens social media technology to the Trojan horse, saying that it “seduces us with its beauty and stated mission, but all the while secretly sabotages our most human qualities.” (Cline, 2014)

Even when adolescents use social media in the most responsible way, thus avoiding many of the negative impacts it can impose, the sense of deindividuation and impeding of social awareness caused by its usage remains a major concern. This is something it seems parents and caregivers, on some level, have realized, as indicated in answers to the final question of the survey highlighted in Chapter 4. When asked their overall feelings regarding their child’s social media usage, 58% parents responded that they preferred that their adolescent not participate in social media. This was true even for parents who felt that their child used social media responsibly, with 25% of parents indicated that their child did so, yet they preferred that they not be involved with social media.

The conclusions reached in this project have offered valuable insight into the impact social media can have on adolescent girls. Although the effects are far less adverse than originally anticipated, it is quite evident that social media usage can have a significant negative influence on the attitudes and behavior of adolescent girls. When considering the absence of much positivity reported in social media usage among young users, it becomes clear that parents and caregivers must proceed with caution and show pay particular consideration to the decision to allow their adolescents to participate. After an in-depth study of social media usage among adolescents, Larry D. Rosen underscores the importance of parental involvement and guidance over social media usage. He states: "Children whose parents don't ask them about their online activities and don't monitor their use of Facebook are less healthy, more narcissistic, and perform worse at school than children whose parents restrict their technology use.”

For those who do allow their children to participate in social media, it is imperative that parents and children communicate openly, clear expectations and boundaries are set, and necessary precautions are taken to minimize the common pitfalls encountered in its usage.

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Details

Title
The Effect of Social Media on Adolescent Girls
Grade
97.0
Author
Year
2016
Pages
47
Catalog Number
V378521
ISBN (Book)
9783668565272
File size
1731 KB
Language
English
Tags
social media, facebook, adolescents
Quote paper
Stefani Taylor (Author), 2016, The Effect of Social Media on Adolescent Girls, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/378521

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