Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable phase of life. Not only in physiological terms, but also because this is the phase in which one’s personality and character are formed. All of the weaknesses within our children come to the fore and must be managed – and at times, corrected – including their relationship with technology and the internet.
Many things have changed about the way we use the internet since its birth in 1983. Today the internet can be found in every part of the world, including our work places and homes. It has brought many positive changes to our lives. Unfortunately, however, various studies show that some negative consequences have surfaced.
Personality and Vulnerability: Tips for a Healthy Relationship with the Web
‘Self-esteem’ is a term that has always been central to the world of education. And now it takes on particular importance with the wave of social networks, which serve as “display cases” in which to observe others and be observed. Therefore, there it brings with the risk of hurting one’s self-esteem.
Two interesting studies on this topic have been conducted which have had noteworthy results. The first study analyzes adolescents’ use of social networks in relation to their self-esteem. This study evaluated the different sensitivity that each individual has when using social networks. In the end, even though the amount of time on social networks contributes to the amount of total time they use the internet, it must be taken into account that some people are more predisposed than others to suffer negative effects from “being online” depending on their personality.
Another topic this study focused on was the difference between two types of self-esteem: basal and barometric. Basal self-esteem grows more slowly over the course of a lifetime. While barometric self-esteem is instantaneous and arises in a shorter amount of time.
During the adolescent years, it is necessary to emphasize barometric self-esteem, particularly with regard to the use of social networks. On these platforms, everying works via ‘clicking,’ as images and videos flash before our eyes that have the potential to bring about significant changes in an adolescent’s self-esteem, the study found.
Of the two hypotheses of this study (scenario 1: short-term effects due to the usage of social networks on self-esteem; and hypothesis 2: assessing the heterogeneity of each individual), we have concluded that adolescents’ self-esteem changes based on various events and experiences they have daily and that it is important to assess the barometric instability that fluctuates in the short-term. Furthermore, this imbalance will occur especially if the adolescent has a vulnerable personality or presents a personality with "dark" tendencies (for example, Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, or resentment).
This second study demonstrates the relationship between different dark characterists, problematic internet use, and various online activities, with quite remarkable data.
The importance of mentoring and character formation
As much as we say that today's generation of teenagers are “digital natives,” this does not mean that we should “abandon them to their fate.” It is precisely because we are in an era of profound change – in which the internet can greatly influence the character of children and young people – that parents and educators must always be attentive and proactive. For example, taking an interest in how much time they spend on social networks and how they feel, showing them ways to solve any problem that might arise while browsing, putting security checks on electronic devices, etc.
In addition, it is so important that – from an early age – young people are educated on virtues and moral values.
Just as it is now fashionable to specialize in medicine or other university fields, so too should be the education of adolescents and children. Each person is unique and unreplaceable. Not only are there differences between men and women (the results of both studies show strong differences between the two sexes), but each and every person is different and merits his own value.
Authenticity on social media
It is common knowledge that the virtual world is overflowing with positivity, as people tend to show only the nice, positive aspects of their lives. It is wise to keep this in mind and inform younger people about this phenomenon because, otherwise it might seem as though everyone else is having a great time or is happy, besides ourselves. This very comparison generates a lot of frustration and can also lead to depression.
The key to boosting self-esteem, in circumstances such as these, lies in being authentic. Life is imperfect, and showing up imperfect and without strict “guidelines” imposed by society can benefit teens by restoring their self-confidence. Moreover, real life is so much more beautiful than a fake life full of facades.
In conclusion, it should be noted that proper formation is needed at school and at home for pupils, parents, and teachers. It is important to be up-to-date, not so much on the technical use of the internet, but more on the “emotional” use of them.