According to a scientific study peer pressure is big for social media teens.
Jeez, who knew?
Seriously, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, if you didn’t already know), actually devoted time, effort, scientific research & money to discover teens are influenced by their peers.
Yea, we know. It’s a stunning revelation.
The researchers sat in a room with 32 teenagers, 13-18, and showed them photos on a wall which looked a lot like Instagram photos, some with many likes, some with fewer, some of their own photos, even, with more likes than others.
They measured their responses in a brain scan and published the results in the journal, Psychological Science.
“(The teens) were more likely to like photos depicted with many likes than photos with few likes; this finding showed the influence of virtual peer endorsement and held for both neutral photos and photos of risky behaviors (e.g., drinking, smoking),” highlights the study’s published abstract. “Viewing photos with many (compared with few) likes was associated with greater activity in (the brain’s) neural regions implicated in reward processing, social cognition, imitation, and attention. Furthermore, when adolescents viewed risky photos (as opposed to neutral photos), activation in the cognitive-control network decreased. These findings highlight possible mechanisms underlying peer influence during adolescence.”
Glad to finally have that all resolved.
“In the teenagers’ real lives, the influence of their friends is likely to be even more dramatic, said Mirella Dapretto, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA’s Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
“In the study, this was a group of virtual strangers to them, and yet they were still responding to peer influence; their willingness to conform manifested itself both at the brain level and in what they chose to like,” said Dapretto, a senior author of the study. “We should expect the effect would be magnified in real life, when teens are looking at likes by people who are important to them.”
The researchers then asked the obvious question: “should parents be worried about social media?”
Seriously? It’s a little late to start worrying now, isn’t it?
Fortunately, the answer given by the researchers is reassuring.
“Much like other media, social media have both positive and negative features,” the researchers said.
“Many teenagers and young adults befriend people online whom they don’t know well, and parents are right to be concerned. That opens up the possibility of a child being more influenced by people who may engage in more risk-taking behavior than your child or your child’s immediate friends,” said Depretto.
“Parents used to know their child’s friends, but when they have several hundred friends, there’s no way parents can know who they are,” added Patricia Greenfield, director of UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles and the study’s other senior author.
Unless, of course, the parents stalk their kids on the social networks.
“If your teen’s friends are displaying positive behavior, then it’s fabulous that your teen will see that behavior and be influenced by it,” Sherman said. “It’s important for parents to be aware of who their teens interact with online and what these friends and acquaintances are posting and liking. In addition, teens’ self-identity is influenced by the opinions of others, as earlier studies have shown. Our data certainly seem to reflect that as well.”