Your kids and social networking

The internet is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential inventions of the past century. It has transformed the way we communicate, and revolutionised countless fields: education, medicine, business and entertainment to name just a few. In fact children and adolescences of today have never known a world without the worldwide web.

Studies show that today’s kids spent as much if not more time communicating with their peers electronically than they do in person. Online social networking sites such as Facebook are a teenager’s social life-blood, with latest stats showing the average teenager spends an average of 12 hours a week on the site, in addition to another 20 hours a week on other online activities.

Social media and internet addiction represents a growing concern for children and adults alike. The explosion of smart-phone use has perpetuated this, as users now have the means for an instantaneous ‘newsfeed hit’ in their pocket at all times. Like the 24-hour news-cycle, the Facebook newsfeed is constantly updating, showing an endless stream of information about what one’s peers are up to, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity dubbed FOMO (‘Fear of Missing Out’).
The highly unregulated nature of sites like Facebook has presented new challenges for both parents and health professionals, providing a forum for ‘cyberbullying’ and other risks to vulnerable users. The team at Clear Horizons are leaders in the field of technology-related mental health and have vast experience treating anxiety, depression, substance abuse, relationship and parenting issues that involve maladaptive use of the internet, video games and other technologies.

Registered Psychologist Brad Ridout has recently published findings from his research at the University of Sydney regarding the effect the prominence of alcohol-related content on social media is having on Australia’s adolescents. As quoted in The Daily Telegraph, Brad’s study found that “it is those who consider alcohol to be a major part of their online identity that are most at risk of alcohol-related problems such as blackouts, getting into fights or regrettable sexual encounters”. The increase in alcohol-related posts on social media, combined with the proliferation of unregulated alcohol advertising on the internet presented to those under the legal drinking age, perpetuates an online culture that normalises binge drinking among adolescences.

However it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to social media. Brad is at the forefront of the development of innovative programs that utilise social media to educate adolescents about the dangers of binge drinking. In August, Brad will be presenting the findings of his latest study at the prestigious American Psychological Association annual convention. He found that correcting over-inflated perceptions of peer alcohol use leads to clinically significant reductions in alcohol consumption among adolescents, who are especially vulnerable to peer influence as they explore and develop their adult identities. Brad’s research and knowledge informs his psychological services at Clear Horizons and we hope you consider referring to him for assessment, treatment and management of anxiety, depression, relationship and parenting issues, particularly those where the internet and other technologies may be having a negative impact on mental health.