Social media have become an essential component of teenage life, from early adolescence through the college years. We examine how teens master the use of social media and how their use is modified to fit the changing developmental demands of the teen years.
Mastering Social Media
To become adept at the use of social media, early adolescents must figure out which media to use, how and when to use them. Social media are powerful tools to connect to peers and find one’s place in adolescent society, but also to bully others. We study these issues among middle school youths.
Issues we want to explore:
• How do early adolescents become “tech savvy”? How easy is it for them to shift from childhood social media (often restricted and closely monitored by adults) to the more sophisticated media favored by adolescents?
• What are the norms governing social media use in adolescence and how do early adolescents learn these norms?
• How does media literacy affect social status and peer acceptance?
Social Media and College Adjustment
College is an opportunity to change or reaffirm one’s identity and reorganize one’s social and support networks. Social media can play a key role in these processes, especially as young people make the transition from home to college life. We study media use among a general population of college students in different college environments. We consider how social media use can affect identity development, pursuing friendships and romantic relationships, and accruing social capital.
• There are norms about which media to use at different points in a relationship. Using the wrong media at the wrong time and short-circuit a budding friendship or romance. (See Yang & Brown, 2012).
• The more that Chinese college students disclose about themselves on social networking sites, the more bridging social capital they gain. That’s also true for bonding social capital, but it depends on the number of positive responses students get to what they post (see Liu & Brown, 2014).
• Do college students suffer if they spend a lot of time on line playing games or seeking online (vs. face-to-face) relationships? It depends on their motives for using social media. (see Yang & Brown, 2014).