Adolescent Development Socialization and the Internet Essay

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Social Networks

Adolescent Development, Socialization, and the Internet

Evaluate how social learning theory and strain theory could be used to explain adolescent development and behavior

Social learning theory suggests that adolescents learn from observing the behaviors of others, not simply in real life but also online. In fact, the mores and accepted behaviors for online interactions are often quite different from what is considered acceptable behavior offline. Teens may be emboldened by the anonymity conferred by an online avatar that enables them to hide their real names. Even if not anonymous, the distance between themselves and their online targets may encourage more meanness and cattiness than would ever take place in a face-to-face context.

As depicted in the Frontline documentary Growing Up Online, both adults and children will often not apply the same ethical standards to the behaviors in which they engage in online as they do to behaviors in the real world. It feels 'safe' to make a racist or offensive online comment, and somehow distanced from one's true self. The rules of behavior online seem more lax, as users can read the negative words of people all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds and can at least temporarily ignore the social norms they perceive exist within their immediate community.

However, another interesting aspect of the documentary was the degree to which it emerged that students do not necessarily see their online interactions as extraordinary or separate from their day-to-day interactions. For most teens past a certain age, being in constant online contact with friends is a way of life. Despite the fears of online predators attacking children, most teens' interactions were with those whom they knew through school or other conventional social venues.
They saw their online life as connected to their real life, not separate from it. And yet the ways in which they comported themselves in that online life were profoundly different, harsher, and more raw than real life behaviors. Their inability to see that what they did online could make someone feel bad or would have consequences beyond the screen suggests the cognitive distancing that is facilitated by the Internet, and the degree to which online social norms are set by teens, versus adults (in contrast to school and home).

As well as social learning theory, online interactions also manifest the principles of social strain theory. According to social strain theory, crimes are committed when individuals believe that current social venues do not enable them to pursue their goals and/or they believe that social inequalities are preventing them from advancing. On Facebook or Instagram, a teen can look into the life of someone else from a distance, and covet that person's existence. It may seem as if everyone is wealthier, happier, and leading a more exciting life, based upon the online evidence they present. This anger and resentment can cause some teens to lash out, either verbally or even physically. Of course, jealousy is hardly a new emotion, but the ability to edit and present a 'perfect' life on Facebook can raise the ire of many onlookers.

Strain theory also suggests that criminal behavior arises as a way of expressing anger when more legitimate venues are not offended.….....

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