Kids, adults prove too connected to social platforms

From teenagers to adults, people of all ages are communicating with friends and family on social media platforms, but it’s how they interact that can impact their lifestyles.

Having information available at your fingertips is useful when you need it, but college students’ online presence has become a big part of their lives, said Kathy W. Zakarian, director of counseling at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

For college students, “the phone seems to be an appendage of their hand, and they are really on their phones all the time. You’ll walk around campus and see people looking down and scrolling through things every free moment that they get,” Zakarian said. “Everyone has their phone in their back pocket or in their hand.”

Students are spending their time online, which can distract them from their work, Zakarian said. If a student is writing a paper and see they received a notification on a post and respond, they may lose their train of thought.

Teenagers with a broken phone, no cellphone service or are busy at a summer camp and can’t use their cellphones have mentioned they feel relieved when they can be away from their phones or take a digital detox, Zakarian said.

Social media can impact careers by sharing personal details, said Michael W. Gillum, licensed psychologist and director at Gillum Psychological & Counseling Services in the city. People can get in trouble by revealing things

about themselves and their lifestyle with employers and co-workers by appearing you live one lifestyle, but online, you live another.

For example, if someone were to go out for a night of drinking, take a picture and post it to social media without thinking, have to drive a company car the next day, with a company policy that states you can’t drive a company car within 24 hours of consuming alcohol, and have a co-worker as a friend on Facebook, they can share that information with the employer, knowing it was from that night, he said.

“People end up having problems at work and they’re not sure why,” Gillum said. “You’re giving up a lot of information about yourself that you don’t necessarily want your employer to know, or maybe your parents or friends.”

Older adults didn’t grow up communicating with one another over texts and messages, he said. Typically, when an adult is unsure about what someone has said they may ask what the post or comment means because they understand they cannot hear or see the person communicating what they said.

But “adults really need a break from this just as much as the kids do,” Zakarian said.

Implementing screen-free times in the household at dinner or before bed can set a good example for kids and teenagers, and gives adults a much needed break from the phones, computer or televisions, Zakarian said.

Parents can monitor what their kids are looking at and can have open communication about their experiences to help interpret communication without social cues, Gillum said.

Children may receive unwanted messages or communication and it’s not always something that the child invited or intended to happen, Gillum said. They also may be too embarrassed to bring the situation up to their parents.

“We know (kids) are going to continue to use it, so how can we be more thoughtful and positive users of social media when you are posting things that are spreading messages of kindness and compassion,” she said. “Some smaller digital detoxes are very helpful.”

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