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Middle Schoolers and Social Media A report of the Early Adolescents amp Social Media Study Peer Relations Study Group University of Wisconsin Madison June 2017 Not that many years ago cell phones were expensive devices for making phone calls or texting in limited loca tions They were rarely in the hands of some one under 16 Children might be able to access the Internet via a family computer
Your favorite social media,Girls and boys disagree. Ask middle school students to name their 3 favorite social. media apps and you ll quickly see how much the social. media landscape has changed recently Facebook has, clearly lost its dominance It made the top 3 lists of only. a third of our study participants Some apps that were popular a few years ago Vine MySpace. weren t mentioned at all, Most striking is the sharp difference between boys and girls rankings of favorite apps We. created a score for each app based on the number of individuals who named the app and how. it was ranked most favorite second or third Instagram finished second for both genders see. chart below Snapchat ranked first among girls but only fifth among boys Boys favorite social. media app YouTube finished 7th on our list for girls Facebook and a messaging service e g. iMessage finished third and fourth respectively among girls and in the reverse order among. boys A quarter of the boys picked a gaming app as their favorite social media but each picked. a different game Just one girl included a game in her top 3. All told participants named 20 different apps in the lists of their three favorites This shows. how diversified middle schoolers use of social media has become What s more if we were to. have asked these students the same question 6 months later we suspect that other social media. would have made the list because of the quick pace of change in people s favorites. We found that nowadays teens use different social media for different purposes or to. connect to different people One app may be best for communicating with family members. another for finding out what s happening after school or this weekend another for determining. what s cool or acceptable among peers still another for displaying one s identity to others. Combine this with young people s tendency to change their allegiance to various social media. and you can see the difficulty adults have keeping on top of how someone is using social media. But take heart most middle schoolers concentrate their attention on just 1 or 2 apps. Takin it slow,How middle schoolers,approach social media. It may seem as if middle school students are totally. engrossed in social media Some of our study partici. pants said they were on social media 10 hours or more each day We didn t believe them But. a closer look revealed that most were pretty cautious in how they used social media. Although students have accounts on several social media they tend to focus their activity on. just one or two They don t seem to post something as often as older students They re more. likely to respond to something someone else has posted than to post something themselves. And a lot of their time online is spent looking at other people s sites. Many of our participants weren t sure whether their social media accounts were public. accessible by anyone or private restricted to those they had accepted as friends or followers. In general they tended to only let family members people they knew or kids their own age be. friends or followers on their social media sites Often however they followed the Instagram. YouTube or Twitter sites of famous people, Posting something on social media is a risk that many of our. participants were reluctant to take No I don t post videos one. I m ready boy confessed because I don t think I can make one that. people would think is funny enough to watch And if students. for Snapchat have a bad experience on social media getting teased or. I just don t embarrassed or having too few people like their post they. often just quit their account,want it One girl planned to drop her. Instagram account because few, people tagged her in pictures or liked pictures she posted. People all have a competition on who gets the most likes she. said That just doesn t make it fun anymore Most also said that. they would steer clear of people who posted pictures or. messages that they thought were offensive or inappropriate. We were not able to view study participants social media. pages to verify what they told us But based on what they said. they seem to be more cautious consumers of social media than. active producers of media content Better to learn by watching. others than learn by posting something that peers will ridicule. Their words can cleverly disguise their wait and see attitude. I m ready for Snapchat one boy said I just don t want it. School rules,How schools handle middle,schoolers use of social media. Most middle schools have pretty clear rules about cell. phone use but rules aren t always followed very, strictly by teachers as well as students That s the word. from our study participants who came from a variety of schools both public and private in and. around Madison, Schools may block certain websites including some social media but with growing numbers. of students having their own phones and cell plans it s hard for these efforts to be successful. So schools tend to restrict when and where students can use their own devices Several. students spoke of the tally rule Caught once with your cell phone out in class you get fair. warning Caught twice the phone goes to the teacher for the period A third time and the phone. ends up in the office until a parent comes to retrieve it probably along with a lecture to the. student on the way home The rule can extend to iPads or tablets if the student uses them to. connect to social media, Most students comply with the rules trying to use their phones only at lunch or other free. time at school They don t want to risk having their phone taken away by teachers or their. parent But students take their cues from teachers Some teachers strictly enforce the rules but. others are laxer They allow phone use if,there s free time at the end of class. And there s a bigger problem looming as,tablets and cell phones add functions they. can become important learning tools in the,classroom How do teachers encourage use. of cell phones for learning while monitoring,their misuse for socializing during class. And is it fair for some students to use their,tablet or phone if other students don t have one. With all the pressure that teens and pre teens face to keep up with what s going on socially. it s hard to resist the urge to be constantly connected checking for the latest social media. updates That s why many students sneak a peek when they think no one s looking Forging. and enforcing sensible rules will continue to challenge school staff Learning to live with the. rules will be a continuing challenge for students,He started it. Sibs role in students social,Parents are great sources of advice or. assistance for all sorts of teenage issues,but not necessarily for social media use. Many parents don t have enough exper,ience to be useful Often middle school. students will turn to an older brother or,sister for help instead. Whether it s deciding which app to use what picture to post or how to respond to. someone s snarky comment online students rely on older siblings to be their guides Sometimes. it s just a matter of watching what a sibling does and copying it Other times it s getting a lesson. on how to make something work And the older sibling has the upper hand Hardly ever did we. find a participant in our study teaching an older sibling how to do something with social media. Not only do siblings know more than parents they re also. My older brother had a less judgmental They re more likely to show a brother or. Kik account first He sister how to do something without asking questions about. why they want to In some families an older brother or sister. showed me how to do it, takes over the parenting responsibilities for a younger. sibling s social media use But most students we talked to got. a parent s permission to use a social media app before having an older sibling show them how. Social media have become an important way that, siblings interact with each other They trade texts or In some families an older. share ideas on what to say on Snapchat or Instagram sibling supervised a middle. But everything isn t perfect Several of our study schooler s social media use. participants said they were embarrassed or angered by. something an older sibling posted or snapped about them I actually blocked my brother. one girl said because he was making fun of my photos like Oh you. post the stupidest stuff So I blocked him, Those who didn t have an older sibling relied more on. 65 friends to learn how to use social media Or they had to fend. for themselves Questions or appeals for help from their own. younger siblings prompted them to hone their social media. Percent of partici skills Even without much input from parents social media use. pants whose older,can be a family affair,sibling helped them. with social media,Do parents keep tabs,Monitoring a child s social media use. Guiding and supervising a child s social media use can be a. real challenge for parents Most grew up before these media. became popular and many parents still aren t adept at using. them Parents in our study used a variety of strategies Their. approach depended on their own comfort and familiarity. with social media as well as how involved their child was with these media. At one extreme were a few parents who gave their child free rein. allowing the child to get whatever media accounts desired and never. 84 checking on what the child did At the other extreme were a few parents. Percent of youth in our who had strict rules They set limits on the time a child could spend on. study under legal age social media which apps could be used and the age at which they could. when they started a,social media account, be accessed Some parents routinely checked everything the child. posted or viewed on social media Either approach worked for some. 20 families but often they led to students spending excessive time on. Percent of parents who social media or creating schemes to hide use from parents like. helped set up the account borrowing friends cell phones or creating accounts under a false name. Parents devised several clever strategies to keep tabs on a child s. social media use One was to encourage the child to use the parent s account for starters. Another was to insist that the child have the parent as a friend or follower on any account. These approaches allowed a parent to easily check on what the child was posting or how peers. were responding to a child s posts A few parents gave an older sibling the responsibility to keep. tabs on the child and report any problems or concerns this worked especially well when the. older sibling was also the child s main source of advice on how to use a particular app. Parents who knew more about social,media could monitor the child by being a. co creator of the child s media content,One father helped his son create YouTube. videos about playing a certain video game,A mother guided her daughter through the. steps to create My Story on Snapchat, Some parents relied on random checks or regular but infrequent reviews once a week or. every 2 weeks of the child s posts and texts This wasn t too concerning to students who spent. more time looking at others posts than posting themselves and who only texted family. members and a few friends For those who were more active on social media the threat of. random checks could lead them to use a texting app their parents weren t aware of About a. quarter of our study participants admitted that their parent didn t know everything they did on. social media often because they hid some information from the parent. One parent took her cue from her daughter When the. child seemed to be upset or acting strangely she would ask. to review the daughter s social media accounts for cues on. the source of the worrisome behavior This would work well. for children who can t easily hide their feelings, It seems clear that just as most parents are probably not. aware of everything their middle schooler does on social. media most children are probably unaware of all the. parent is doing to monitor their use of these media Parents. may quietly check a child s apps ask a sibling for updates. or check with parents of friends to keep tabs on a child s. activities without the child s awareness,We found that students. often referred to trust when FIVE THINGS PARENTS CAN DO. talking about parents The child 1 BE AWARE Read articles talk to other adults to stay current on how. wanted to maintain the par various social media work and which ones are in and out among. ent s trust by not doing any teens This will help you set reasonable guidelines. 2 SHOW INTEREST Ask your children about their social media listen to. thing foolish on social media their stories give advice or assistance when asked Children share. and the parent wanted to more with parents who seem genuinely interested and supportive. maintain the child s trust by not 3 SET GUIDELINES Establish clear rules for your child s use of social. being intrusive in how they media and try to be consistent in enforcing the rules. 4 KEEP TABS Find a reasonable way to monitor what your child is doing. monitored social media use In on social media Be consistent with how you keep tabs on your child s. these early stages of children s activity on social media. social media use most young 5 BE FLEXIBLE As children grow older adjust the guidelines to give. them more responsibility to manage their social media on their own. people were sufficiently open,with parents and most parents. sufficiently respectful of the child s needs to maintain a delicate balance of trust and awareness. Our study findings are based on intensive interviews with a. diverse sample of 35 middle school students Interviews. Study of Early Adolescents, occurred during the 2015 16 academic year and following. and Social Media, summer The study was supported by funding from the. Principal Investigator Department of Educational Psychology at the University of. Dr B Bradford Brown Wisconsin Madison We are grateful for the assistance of the. Dept of Educational Psychology Wisconsin Youth Company and the Madison Metropolitan. University of Wisconsin Madison, School District in providing access to potential study partici. Co Directors pants For more information visit our website. Angela Calvin M S,GeckHong Yeo M S,Peer Relations Study Group. University of Wisconsin Madison,http website education wisc edu prsg.