Lately, social media has been demonized for causing a lot of ills. People have blamed smartphones for the destruction of a generation, ruining posture and mood, and eroding the brains.
However, Andrew Przbylski, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, dismissed them as simply a projection of man’s own fears. He explained that most of the existing research on social media’s effects had the same problems that had plagued the social science field for years.
Przybylski pointed out that a lot of the studies are too small to carry a lot of statistical power. Moreover, some researchers frequently venture into a study with an agenda or hypothesis which they hope will be supported by their findings, Business Insider reported.
He cited the rise in teen depression and iPhone ownership which is a classic case of correlation and not causation. The gadgets should not be blamed for cases of depression, Przbylski noted. When he replicated some of the studies by using larger sets of people in a more well-controlled environment, he did not find the same result linking iPhone ownership with depression. He either found no link or a very small connection.
Another research he conducted in 2017 was to examine the effect of screen time on over 120,000 British adolescents who were asked how much time they spend streaming, gaming, and using their laptops and mobile devices.
Przbylski ran the data through a series of statistical analysis and found that screen time is not harmful to the majority of the British teens. It can even be helpful if the kids are using it just for two to four hours daily. In the paper, which was published in the Psychological Sciences journal, Przbylski wrote that overall, the evidence showed that moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and could even be advantageous in a connected world.
There is a fear among parents that using social media is universally bad for the youth. It is because text messages distract them while in class, family times are missed because of texting at the dinner table, and kids lose sleep because they spend the time scrolling through Instagram.
Once parents noticed a few examples of phone-obsessed behavior among teens, the tendency is to notice it more wherever they go. It could be because of the phenomenon of confirmation bias when one event that supports an idea you already have, because you are very aware of these types of activities, you will find more examples that apparently confirm the idea.
Przbylksi pointed out that a lot of studies are bound up in these problems because our concerns or panic about a new thing, like social media, guide how we do the research and interpret the results.
Social media may be even having some positive impact on teens and young adults, however, many people are not paying attention to those studies, Candice Odgers, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California Irvine, said. She pointed out that the digital world has not created a new species of kids. Odgers noted that many things that attract the young people to social media are the same things that attract them to other activities.
Odgers insisted that there are a lot of good things that are happening with social media use today, although there has really been a negative narrative about it. For instance, a large review of 36 studies, published in the Adolescent Research Review journal, said that teens, instead of feeling hampered by their screens, are using digital communication to deepen and strengthen existing in-person relationships.
A 2017 review of the literature on social media and screen time, published by UNICEF, concluded that digital technology seems to be beneficial for children’s social relationships and most young people are using it to enhance their existing relationships and stay in touch with friends.
However, CNBC cited a new study from the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America that social media can be added to rent, credit card bills, and student loans that make it difficult for young people to save money. The research, which examined the impact of social media on American spending habits, found that 90 percent of millennial respondents said social media creates a tendency to compare their own wealth of lifestyle to their peers. The same sentiment was shared by 71 percent of Generation X, and 54 percent of Baby Boomers.
Beyond the millennials, The Atlantic pointed out that people born between 1995 and 2012 grew up with smartphones, had an existing Instagram account before they began high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. While the millennials grew up with the web, it was not ever-present in their lives at hand at all times, day and night. However, the next generation that came after them, which some call iGen, were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and high school students when iPad came out in 2010. Thus, it is not surprising that in a 2017 poll of more than 5,000 American teens, 75 percent owned an iPhone.
[researchpaper 리서치페이퍼= Vittorio Hernandez 기자]