One of my daughters sent me this article for my blog and said "you''ll like this," and she was right.
The article is called 10 Things You Don't Know About Teens And Social Networking--it was eye opening.
I read about kids' (ages 13-15) experiences with going online and their utter fascination and addiction to social media.
As I started to analyze and categorize these, I realized the power of social media is anchored in every layer of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: from physiological to self-actualization - not only for kids but also adults, as follows:
1) Physiological Needs--Foster social networks online, which is a powerful factor in developing productive and profitable life opportunities--as the old adage goes "It's not what you know, but who you know." As Hannah, age 13, states: "There is more life happening online than offline."
2) Safety Needs--Despite all the fears about people preying on others online and cyber bullying, people tend to feel safer behind their computer than not. Call it the anonymity factor or the distance of not being within range of a punch in a the nose. As Sadie, age 14, states: "I feel safer online, than I do offline."
3) Social Needs--They don't call it "social media" for nothing. Yes, it's all about reaching out to others from email to chat and from blogs to wikis, we're connecting with each other all virtually all the time. As Jasmine, age 13, states: "My friendships are really affected by social networking."
4) Esteem Needs--Your online image or brand matters a lot to people where they either get ego-boosted or deflated. People desperately want to be "liked," "friended," "mentioned," and "commented" about. As Samantha, age 14, states: "It affects our image and self-confidence."
5) Self-Actualization Needs--At the end of the day, we all want to realize our full potential and social media provide powerful tools to engage, be heard, influence, and ultimately make a difference.
As many of the kids self-report, the compulsion to be online is so strong for two reasons:
1) Personal Addiction--The satisfaction of our needs by doing social media creates an addiction that must be fulfilled or else like a drug addict, you experience the dire pain of withdrawal--as one girl, Nina, age 15 reported, "I feel like I'm losing control. I want my parents to tell me to get off the computer. Actually, they would need to literally take the computer away because I can't stop myself."
2) Peer Pressure--There is a social addiction that results in peer pressure to be online and participate or else. As Jasmine, age 13, states: "So you have to be online all the time, just to keep track, so you don't upset anyone."
While clearly much good comes from social media (in terms of human need fulfillment), anything that becomes an addiction--personal and societal--can be dangerous and a cause for concern.
As with all tools to satisfy human needs, we need to control the tools, rather than be controlled by them.
With social media, people should use it if and when it meets their needs and balance that with other important tools for fulfilling those needs, such as school, work, in-person relationships, real activities and so on.
We should never become so consumed by social media that we neglect other vital life activities, but rather we need to exert self-control and teach our children the same--to become well-rounded, functional people online and off.