Tweens and young teens who use social media place a higher value on fame than kids who don't use it or use it infrequently, says a new survey of media use
among those ages 9-15.
"Kids who claim they want to be famous use more media," says lead author Yalda Uhls, a researcher at UCLA's Children's Digital Media Center. She will present findings Friday at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Seattle.
Of the 334 young people surveyed online with parents' permission, almost half say they use social networks. Of those under 13, 23% use a social media site; 26% of the younger group say they have a YouTube account.
Uhls used a five-point scale asking kids how important fame is to their future; she says those who use social media put a higher value on fame than those who don't. A third of those surveyed said being famous was very important, important or somewhat important.
Findings show 54% of those who believe fame is very important for their future post photos often or "almost always"; 46% update their status that frequently; and 38% update their profile page that frequently.
Carl Pickhardt, an Austin psychologist and author of Surviving Your Child's Adolescence, says social media gives young people an opportunity to "craft their own public identity."
"Social media has revolutionized early adolescence," he says. "They have this online refuge. There you are on the screen. All these people are saying nice things about you. They can control it. When I'm at school, I can't control my image, but online, I can put myself out there in the way that I want."
Psychologist Laurence Steinberg of Temple University in Philadelphia, likens social networking to the telephone and YouTube to television.
Steinberg, author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25, says they are just newer ways to communicate that shouldn't create too much alarm. Parents have always had photo albums of kids, now they're posting them online, he says.
"Fame-seeking is not new," Pickhardt says. But now "you can imitate what it's like to be famous."
Kids who want to be famous need only look to teen phenom Justin Bieber, a Canadian who posted videos of his singing on YouTube, which led to being "discovered" in 2008 when he was just 13.
Adults may be encouraging fame-seeking, but even if parents don't, society will, the psychologists say.
"We live in a society in which self-promotion is a constant, and in which American Idol or The Voice, and for any of these reality shows, the main goal is to be discovered," Steinberg says.
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