Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens

If you are a parent, thinking about becoming one or know a parent that can benefit from this coverage; please allocate some time and watch and pass the word on to as many families as you can. This is an important piece that parents, guardians and well, everyone needs to watch; and make sure your child(ren) watch it with you. In today’s word where the interwebs is the place to be and where children spend most of their time; it is important that we all know what they do, how they are living their social lives, what they are doing online and with whom, etc. Anderson Cooper captures a lot of this in the #Being13 special report.

I have written these pieces:

and there will be more to come.

Atlanta (CNN) For the past two years, CNN has been investigating how teens use social media.

#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens airs on October 5th (tomorrow) at 9 p.m. ET on CNN

Across the country, eighth graders (with the permission of their parents and schools) allowed child development experts into their online world. Experts studied 150,000 posts across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Ahead of the special, CNN asked some of the teens who participated in the study about the impact of social media on their lives. Their answers express solely their opinion and are edited for brevity and clarity.

What does social media mean to you?

Morgan: Social media means a lot to me, and it’s very important in my eyes. A lot of my life revolves around it. So, without social media, my life would be pretty different.

Zack: Social media, to me, means a place where I can post things about myself for other people.

Jay: Honestly, I really love social media. Social media is a great way to chat with your friends.

Emmy: It makes me feel really happy — I guess? I don’t know how to explain it. It gives me mixed emotions, but most of the time it makes me feel very happy. I don’t know, it is just something I really like to do.

What is the purpose of social media?

Morgan: To me, social media’s purpose is to have a way to connect with people online. It helps you to still be in touch with lots of people even if it’s not face to face. It can also have the purpose of letting people know who you really are. People can be themselves, and be more open than they might be in person.

Zach: The purpose of social media is so I can express who I am, what I do and places I go.

Jay: Social media definitely has more than one purpose. One of the ways is to interact with your friends and meet new people. Actually, it is funny that you ask, because my school just based everything online. They are making us get these apps, and then we get all of our homework on it. So now, everything is basically off social media, Facebook and everything. Like, I am in this class, and they give us stuff to do that is on the Facebook page. We have to get this app called Google classroom. We are basically going paperless. Everything is going to be online now.

Emmy: I would say to be connected to everything and everybody in your school and your friends and have like a mini community online.

Describe what it feels like when you are cut off from social media?

Morgan: Being cut off from social media is awful. Even just one day off it makes you feel like you’re totally out of the loop on everything. I always feel like I miss out on tons of stuff, and everyone knows more than me about what’s been going on lately.

Zach: It feels as if something really important has been taken away, and if I don’t have it, I will just be a more grumpier and frustrated person in general.

Jay: Oh well, it happens a lot because my mom keeps taking away my phone. I guess sometimes I feel like I am not able to talk with anyone. I feel sort of like cut off from all my friends, because I am not going to be able to talk to them to see what they are doing. When you think about it, that is one of the only ways you can interact with them when you are not with them.

Emmy: It makes me very upset. My parents would ground me from my phone before they would ground me like into my room, because I am constantly always on it. If I am disconnected from that, I just feel like I have nothing to do. Everything I do is on my phone. I go outside and play sports, but I am always doing that. I am always on my phone — usually. So, when I am disconnected, I am very upset and just beg and beg my parents to give me it back. Or, I ask my friends when I get to school, “What’s been going on?” So like, everybody knows what is going on, but I am the only one that is out. I feel left out.

Do parents and teachers understand why social media matters so much to kids your age? What don’t they get about it?

Morgan: I don’t think parents and teachers understand why social media matters so much to kids my age. They don’t get that everything relies on how we look in a picture, how many likes/followers we have, if we get a comment back from someone, etc.

Zack: What don’t they get about it? They do understand that it is very important to us, but they don’t understand why. Because, when they grew up they didn’t have the social media that we have. So, they don’t understand why or how important.

Jay: Oh, definitely not! My parents don’t have social media or anything, where our generation has grown up with the advanced iPhones and new apps coming out. But my parents just see it as distractions. Like to us, it was basically something we grew up with and something we have known all our lives.

Emmy: Since they didn’t have it when they were younger, they don’t understand why we are constantly on it. They don’t understand why we have to post everything, because they know some people might get mad or offended by it. They just don’t get it. Like, I know my dad uses social media, but they still don’t use it as much as we would.

Cooper quotes from one of the many online attacks that his team unearthed.

“Go die. Stop trying to be popular,”

“Holy s— your [sic] ugly.”

(And that’s one of the tamer ones!)

Headlines from CNN’s “Being13: Inside The Secret World of Teens” include:

  • Middle schoolers view social media as a real time score board for a 24/7 popularity contest.
  • Students in our study admit checking their social media accounts more than 100 times a day. Middle schoolers “check” social media more than they post. The more they look at social media, the more distressed they can become.
  • Social media interactions often matter more than real life conversations. The line between the real world and the cyber world no longer exists to middle schoolers.
  • #Being13 identifies new, painful ways teens bully and strategically exclude each other on social media. More than a third of middle schoolers admit they purposely exclude others online.
  • 94% of parents underestimated the amount of fighting on social media. We decode the language teens don’t want their parents to understand.
  • 15 percent of middle schoolers admit they have received inappropriate photos, many of which are used for revenge porn.
  • #Being13 explores the connection between selfies and self-esteem. We’ll introduce viewers to teens who take 200 selfies before selecting which one to post.
  • “#Being13: Inside The Secret World Of Teens” also gives families a practical roadmap for navigating the new challenges of parenting plugged-in Tweens. We show parents what to worry about and what to let go, and how to use social media as a way to deepen their relationships with their children.“Being 13” is a follow up to AC360°’s Emmy award winning special report, “Bullying: It Stops Here.”
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