Online Social Networking: Is it becoming a disease?

Seems like kids these days are glued to their cell phones, and if they're not, they're preoccupied with online social networks. There is no actual medical diagnosis of "social network addiction", but therapists are seeing more and more cases of people who have their online social lives ravage their existing social lives, relationships, family and work. For example, the online community Second Life has become a damaging addiction for many, and some spend over ten hours a week on Facebook. My concern is with children developing unhealthy social networking habits that parents dismiss or fail to recognize.

How do you go about diagnosing social network addiction? What are the symptoms?

As educators and parents, what do you think we need to do in order to prevent kids from becoming social network site addicts?

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Addiction? What about us growing up? Were we addicted to music? Everywhere we went we had the radio blaring. Our parents hated our music.

Today, kids are simply floating from one tech gadget to another. From Sony CD walkman to MP3 players, to iTouch & iPhone. From pager to cell phone to to cell text to iPhone :) From computer games to play stations to xBox online to iPhone.

Now, they've got opportunities to communicate more than ever. Where once it was only one way now it's suddenly two way. from IM to Text to Chat to Social Network where many to many can all chat, but it looks cool because now its MultiMedia.

Are they addicted to it - maybe a few are just like a few never threw away their drugs. But if today's society - not just kids - are addicted to anything it's technology!

I'm a director of technology and a department chair for technology and I approve this add :)
I agree on both the specifics you mention and the overall message of your post. Every generation, every new technology goes through this stage- from the radio to the stereo to the walkman to ...

On some level- it's the newness of the tech/ability it brings that makes it so compelling and "addictive" for a brief time- but again, that's part of being young. You glom onto something new and fresh that allows you some feeling/level of freedom your old parents and teachers don't quite "get" and haven't accepted yet. Once they do, the coolness factor diminishes and 99.9% of the young people abandon "it" (Yes Facebook- I'm talking about you).

We "old timers" need to recognize what it is about the latest & greatest that is so compelling- usually what I find is that it somehow offers an extension of the individual's ability to share/explore their voice/persona. When you are still trying to discover who you truly are- having that ability to try on different virtual "costumes" that represent different parts of yourself is unbelievably freeing. Why not be a Goth one week and a prep the next and see how it feels to "be" that person? And being able to do all this without that "eyeball" effect of having the kids next to you in class rip on you for appearing so flaky- what a gift! How much healthier would many of us be if we'd had such opportunities during our tween/teen years?

Social media is today's young person's MTV (yes, I remember back when it really was a music channel) - it's the chance to have something shared amongst their peers around the world that let's them explore multiple aspects of the person they could become.
I agree with both of your points. I think parents need to be informed on how their kids are using online social utilities, along with the social and personal benefits it offers rather than writing it off as "wasting time" or "doing nothing" over the Internet like a technophobic. Social media is giving people the opportunity to initiate dialogue. It's turning readers into publishers. And as Kimberly touched upon, it allows them to explore interests and their identity on an information-rich and wide-reaching platform.

It is integral for many people, and not just kids. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But social media is just one tool for self-concept and affiliation. I'm concerned about kids who distance themselves from other resources like family, friends, extracurricular activities, or kids who lose sleep from late night to early morning text messages, or kids with slipping grades from procrastinating on assignments or minimizing studying because they're too enveloped in reading people's status messages or looking at their friends' profile pictures. And I've seen this happen, where kids are not used to face to face interaction and have a hard time adapting to the rhythm of a conversation or speaking fluidly because they're used to tweeting or IMing.

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