When Friends’ Postings Surprise or Shock Us

Have you ever been surprised or even horrified by one of your friend’s Facebook postings about politics?

If so, you’re not alone.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life project, 73% of social networking site (SNS) users “only sometimes” agree or never agree with their friends’ political postings.

And while they may disagree with their friends, a 68% majority keeps quiet about it. Further, some 38% of SNS users said they have discovered through a friend’s posts that his or her political beliefs differed from their own.

In its survey, completed in February 2012, the Pew project also found that 80% of adults use the Internet and 66% use social networking sites. In addition, Pew reported that 75% of SNS users say their friends post at least some content related to politics and 37% of SNS users themselves post political material at least occasionally.

The survey “shows that many friendships are not centered on political discussion and that many networks are not built with ideological compatibility as a core organizing principle,” according to Pew.

However, while most friends are willing to look the other way with respect to their friends’ postings, some 18% of SNS site users said they have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone for posting something they disagreed with or found offensive.

What Parents Should Know about Social Media

Parents are not nearly as aware as they should be of the impact social media sites have on their children’s lives, according to a new study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study identified social media sites as including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, gaming sites like Club Penguin and the Sims, and video sites like YouTube and blogs. They’re extremely popular with teens and pre-teens, say researchers, who cited a poll showing 22 percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day and more than half log on more than once a day. Further, 75 percent of teenagers own their own cell phones, and 25% use them for social media, 54% for texting, and 24% for instant messaging.

There are benefits to using social media, the researchers note, including enhanced communication with peers, social connection, the development of social skills, the opportunity to participate in homework circles, and more. But there are also problems – among these are cyberbullying, privacy issues, “sexting” and sleep deprivation associated with Internet addiction.

Parents may lack the technical knowledge to keep pace with their children’s online activities or fail to understand how important an extension of their children’s offline lives social media has become.

Online Dangers

Here are some dangers parents should be especially watchful for:

  • Cyberbullying – using digital media to communicate untrue and often embarrassing or hostile information about another person. The most common online risk for teens, cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and even suicide.
  • Sexting – sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages or photographs – is a growing phenomenon. One survey found that 20 percent of teens had sent or posted nude or seminude photographs or videos of themselves. Risks include legal problems and school suspension for perpetrators and emotional distress for victims.
  • ‘Facebook Depression’ – Researchers defined this new phenomenon as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend too much time on social media sites and begin to display the classic signs of depression.
  • Privacy Concerns – Preteens and teens may be unaware of the digital footprint they are creating when they post too much information about themselves. They often fail to understand that “what goes online stays online,” which could later haunt them.
  • Targeted Advertising – It’s important to understand that many online sites use behavioral ads, which operate by gathering information on the person using the site and then target that person’s profile to influence purchasing decisions.

Parents can do two basic things to address these concerns, researchers say. They can talk to their children about their online use and discuss the specific risks they may face when they use online sites. They can also work to become better educated about the many technologies their children are using so they can better monitor their children’s online behaviors.

Setting Boundaries for Children

Numerous studies have documented the harmful side effects that technology overuse and abuse can have on children, with the dangers ranging from poor grades, social isolation, obesity, sleepless nights and worse.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? Below are a few simple suggestions for parents who want to motivate their technology-addicted child to unplug from technology.

  • Set clear boundaries. They may protest, but – as is true regarding many other aspects of life – children look to their parents to set boundaries on how much time spent surfing the Net, texting, or playing video games is appropriate.
  • Establish off-limit times. Enjoy meals without the intrusion of technology. Ban inappropriate technology use while homework is being done. Tune out technology at bedtime.
  • Follow through. Revoke technology privileges for rule violations. Remember – your child is relying upon you to establish the ground rules.
  • Set an example for your child by unplugging from technology when appropriate and using that time to reconnect with your loved ones.

For more suggestions on helping your child unplug from technology, check out our previous article on this topic.

Having the Last Word

Social media has done much to change the way we live. Now, thanks to a new Facebook app that lets people record their final wishes, it also can affect what happens after we die.

“If I Die” is a new Facebook app that allows individuals to post a final message to their Facebook wall for loved ones to see after they’ve died – with the help of three carefully selected “trustees” who are entrusted with posting the message.

App users can record videos or write messages to be published posthumously. Upon their death, their messages may be published all at once or released according to a designated schedule.

The app was created by Wilook, an Israeli company led by Eran Alfonta, who says the app responds to a basic human need. “We all have things to say and don’t necessarily have the audience with the patience to hear us,” Alfonta told the website Mashable. “Actually, we all want to leave something behind. We all want to leave a stamp behind us.”

We at Unplug and Reconnect think the app presents a very clever way to say the things we’d like our loved ones to know. But of course, we would argue that it’s better to tell our loved ones such important things – like how much they mean to us – while we are still alive.



Facebook Changes Meaning of Serving ‘Over There’

Once upon a time, the holiday season brought increased volumes of mail to our servicemen and women serving overseas. But these days, mail sent “over there,” has taken on a whole new meaning, thanks to social media sites like Facebook and online video phone services like Skype.

Just how significantly social media networks and fast Internet connections are changing what it means to be deployed to a war zone is something the military is now studying, according to a recent news report by USA Today.

Many servicemen and women claim that online services like Facebook and Skype make serving in remote parts of the world more tolerable because they allow almost daily interactions with family and friends. But the military is also concerned that they may be distractions that could have deadly consequences; hence the study.

“No other military in the history of warfare has had that level of access to their families,” said Benjamin Karney, a social psychologist who studies marriage and family relationships in the military, in an interview with USA Today. Karney is one of three researchers involved in a three-year study for the Department of Defense (DOD), which is tracking how military families handle stress before, during and after deployments.

According to Karney, the DOD wants to find out if online access to family members strengthens family bonds and eases the post-deployment transition to civilian life or whether it might distract servicemen and women from their mission and expose pre-existing problems in their personal lives.

Not surprisingly, Karney suspects the answer might be a little of both.