Despite considerations from many dad and mom and caregivers that youngsters are spending an excessive amount of time on their smartphones, video video games, and social media, Keith Hampton, a professor at Michigan State University and director of educational analysis on the Quello Center, believes that display time is just not a trigger for fear.
Instead, he’s extra involved about adolescents who’re disconnected as a consequence of restricted entry to the web.
“Teens who are disconnected from today’s technologies are more isolated from their peers, which can lead to problems,” Hampton mentioned. “Many young people are struggling with their mental health. While adolescents often grapple with self-esteem issues related to body image, peers, family, and school, disconnection is a much greater threat than screen time. Social media and video games are deeply integrated into youth culture, and they do more than entertain. They help kids to socialize, they contribute to identity formation and provide a channel for social support.”
Hampton and his colleagues examine disconnection. For most teenagers, web entry is part of their on a regular basis life. These teenagers solely expertise disconnection once they select to restrict their gadget use or when their dad and mom step in to regulate the time they spend on-line.
However, a big pocket of teenagers, dwelling primarily in rural America, is disconnected for a really completely different cause. They dwell in households the place there may be an especially weak infrastructure for broadband connectivity. These teenagers usually don’t have any web entry exterior of faculty, very gradual entry at house, or spotty knowledge protection utilizing a smartphone.
“Rural teens are the last remaining natural control group if we want insight into the mental health of adolescents who have no choice but to be disconnected from screens,” Hampton mentioned.
In a peer-reviewed paper primarily based on a survey of three,258 rural adolescents, Hampton and his workforce in contrast the vanity and social actions of teenagers with no or poor house web entry to teenagers who’re the heaviest customers of screens in addition to teenagers with dad and mom who tightly management or restrict their display use. Here is what they discovered.
The single largest predictor of getting decrease shallowness was, merely, being a woman. This was unsurprising, because the heavy toll of adolescence on younger women has been properly established. The second largest determinant of shallowness, for women and boys, was poor grades at school.
Teens who had poor web entry at house and teenagers who had dad and mom that exerted probably the most management over their media use additionally had substantively decrease shallowness — though solely roughly half of the decrease shallowness skilled by a typical woman or these with low educational efficiency.
Keith Hampton, professor within the Department of Media and Information and director of Academic Research on the Center, discusses why teenagers being disconnected from the web is a much bigger subject than an excessive amount of display time. Hampton elaborates on why the web could be a good factor for teenagers to remain linked to household and pals. Credit: Michigan State University
The period of time teenagers spent on screens, whether or not it was watching movies, enjoying video games, or utilizing social media, didn’t play an enormous position in teenagers’ shallowness. Even teenagers who had been “excessive” customers of screens reported increased shallowness than those that had been disconnected as a result of they’d poor web entry or their dad and mom exerted a number of management over their time on-line.
Why? Because media is deeply built-in into youth tradition.
“Isolation doesn’t come from being online, it comes from being disconnected from those sources of entertainment and socialization that permeate teens’ lives,” Hampton mentioned. “For most teens, that’s social media, video games, and sharing the videos they watch online. It is often how teens get their information, communicate and share.”
This doesn’t imply that teenagers should not spending time socializing in particular person. Teens who spend extra time utilizing social media and watching movies spend extra time socializing. Hampton discovered that each hour spent on social media was accompanied by 21 minutes spent with pals. “Excessive” customers of screens had been spending extra time with household and pals.
“Perpetuating the myth that teens who spend more time on their devices spend less time with friends and family and that ‘excessive’ time online is harming most teens’ mental health, does more harm than good,” Hampton mentioned. “When dad and mom exert an excessive amount of management over the time their teenagers spend on screens, they reduce youngsters off from friends and the social help that protects psychological well being. While this survey was finished previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, this work points to the terrible toll experienced by rural adolescents who were disconnected during the pandemic and the urgent need to address gaps in rural broadband infrastructure.”
Hampton said this does not imply that social media platforms are benign. There are real risks to mental health from online bullying and algorithms that focus teens on content that can be harmful. And some teens are more susceptible to harm than others.
Yet, this research shows that when parents have conversations with their teens about the risks of media use, focus on helping teens develop critical media skills, and give adolescents greater autonomy over their media use, teens report higher self-esteem.
“I advise parents to not focus on how long your teens spend on screens, but to take an interest in what your teens are doing online and spend time together,” Hampton said.
Reference: “Disconnection More Problematic for Adolescent Self-Esteem than Heavy Social Media Use: Evidence from Access Inequalities and Restrictive Media Parenting in Rural America” by Keith N. Hampton and Inyoung Shin, 5 August 2022, Social Science Computer Review.