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Since Facebook became “Meta” and announced its entrance into the “Metaverse”, a lot of people have been left asking what exactly that means, and what are the implications for the next generation of technology-addicted kids?

Clearly, technology, phones and social media have become an indispensable asset in our lives – changing the way that we communicate, learn and speak. For many adults, it’s routine for a smartphone to essentially act as an extension of a limb, books to be read on a Kindle and work meetings to be joined through Zoom. With the rapidly advancing technological options for daily tasks, kids are beginning to form a closer relationship with technology too. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 90% of Australian children are looking at screens for 10 or more hours a week.

Many parents are familiar with the dangers of excess screen time, social media and technology addiction in kids – but with Facebook’s rebranding itself to “Meta”, and its subsequent launch into the “Metaverse”, the implications for children in this new technological space is unclear.

What on earth is the “Metaverse”?

We have all heard the term flying around in the news recently, but less people know what the metaverse actually entails. Broadly, the metaverse is a virtual reality and augmented reality system that creates engrossing, 3D digital experiences, that were previously viewed on a phone in the palm of your hand. Essentially, it is a combination of immersive online spaces that connect to create an entirely online universe – accessed through virtual reality.

The concept of a metaverse is not a new phenomenon. Coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi book Snow Crash, the metaverse was described as a virtual world where the protagonist went to escape his reality in Los Angeles.

After Snow Crash, concepts akin to a “metaverse” were adapted by a myriad of other sci-fi and action productions like Ready Player One and more recently Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds, as well as online games like Second Life, Roblox and Pokemon Go – which all centre around the blurring of the lines between online activity, and reality.

Clearly, there are several companies that have begun to utilise the digital connectedness that the metaverse has to offer. However, with the recent addition of Facebook and Microsoft to this list, as well as the large focus on access via virtual reality– the distinction between what is online and what is reality looks even more unclear.

Here are some of the main features of the “metaverse” to consider:

  • A virtual world and virtual reality: this is, to many, the most important aspect of the metaverse. The idea behind a virtual reality entrance into the metaverse, is that you feel more present in the online space, and less connected to reality.
  • Other people: the presence of other people in the metaverse is a characteristic that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are presumably focusing on – to create a more realistic and ‘natural’ form of online communication. There will be many other avatars and users in the metaverse space to talk to and even do things with – from the comfort of your bedroom.
  • Availability: This virtual world is available whenever an individual wants to enter it – which can do even more to blur the boundaries between online and real life. Users can change the metaverse by adding virtual objects or buildings, and even potentially owning residency within it.
  • Connection to the real world: some people theorise that some aspects of real life will be able to translate into the metaverse. For example, spending money for things that you will only get in the metaverse, or flying a drone in the metaverse to control a drone in real life.

Lack of control on age and content restrictions

Now we have more of a clear understanding of what this online universe will look like – we should talk about the potential impact it will have on the younger generation. Children have already been exposed to several social online games and gaming systems like Roblox, Play Station and Xbox, where they can play a game and communicate with others simultaneously. Therefore, the idea of a metaverse will undoubtedly appeal to them.

While access to the metaverse is limited to those over 13 years old, there is a lack of verification and moderation software to ensure that this age restriction remains enforced. Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality platform, does not have much information to support the alleged age restrictions for the metaverse. Its safety centre states that the software is “Designed for Age 13+” and therefore those under 13 are not permitted to have an account or use devices. However, the section next to this explains how to share an Oculus device with friends and family, therefore demonstrating that children would be able to access the metaverse by simply using their parent’s account.

Additionally, with Facebook’s recent efforts to include younger children in their social media empire, parents may be cautious on the ability for their children to access the metaverse and become subject to its immersive and addictive nature – without someone monitoring the content they are consuming.

Where do you draw the line between technology and reality?

Despite the lack of control on age and content restrictions, a larger danger that presents itself in virtual reality, is the blurring of the lines between online activity and reality. More specifically, considering the already difficult task of moderating cyberbullying and online abuse in 2D communication, how these forms of bullying will impact teens and children in a more realistic 3D online space that is the metaverse.

When communicating online or playing games through a phone, the artificial nature of the experience is clearer, because you are holding it in your hand. However, the immersive experience of VR – in that it’s manufactured to feel ‘real’ – makes its simulated nature more difficult to distinguish. Research has demonstrated that the psychological and effects of VR register in our bodies the same way as real-life experiences, as the level of “presence” in VR aims to mimic reality.

When this is considered in the context of violent video games, or social media cyberbullying, the ‘coolness’ factor is diminished. For example, current studies have demonstrated that when playing violent video games in VR, and experiencing physical abuse in a realistic VR landscape, the subconscious psychological and post-traumatic effect may be more intense than intended.

Verbal abuse will also feel more real as well. If a child is experiencing cyberbullying in a virtual reality landscape – instead of reading abusive words from someone hiding behind a keyboard, they will be hearing and seeing someone verbally abuse them, as if it was happening in real life.

Even so, because of the developing nature of children’s brains, the increasingly mainstream nature of VR – paired with potential traumatic experiences within – makes the potential consequences to children’s mental and emotional health unknown.

The introduction of the metaverse has catapulted the prospect of VR communication into the mainstream. Albeit scary, this technology has the potential to revolutionise social media and online gaming. However, whether this will have a positive effect on the wellbeing of our children and other future generations is unknown. It is in the hands of controlling companies to establish secure age verification and content moderation systems, to make the metaverse the safest place that it can be.

Harmful health and fitness advice has the habit of infiltrating social media landscapes, and it looks like TikTok is the newest – and potentially most dangerous – vessel for this advice to run rife.

The average TikTok user spends 52 minutes of their day on the app. That’s over 850 minutes a month, and 18,928 minutes a year. With these statistics in mind, it’s no wonder that TikTok has become the cultural phenomenon it is today – with popularity skyrocketing during the peak of widespread lockdowns, and now garnering approximately 1 billion monthly users – 60% of those belonging to Gen z. Clearly, TikTok has become an indispensable asset in the lives of many children and teens across the globe – but as parents, have you ever questioned the kind of harmful messaging this app could be sending your kids?

At the end of 2019, I opened TikTok for the first time. Periodically opening and closing the app every day, I consumed dance videos, funny skits, ‘daily vlogs’, and other light-hearted content that was inundating my feed. At first it seemed harmless, but it wasn’t until 2020, when plunged into the first of many lockdowns here in Melbourne, that I realised how much TikTok content I was subconsciously absorbing.

Face-to-face with reoccurring bouts of ‘lockdown boredom’, I was continually sucked into the TikTok quicksand of mindless scrolling. I wasn’t alone in this. For 4–15-year-olds, the average scrolling time per day is 80 minutes – a significantly longer chunk of the day than our 52 minutes. Although these statistics may seem shocking, the unlimited stream of consecutive, relatively short videos to scroll through – a 3-minute option only recently introduced – makes extended periods of scrolling much harder to consciously limit.

It’s all in the algorithm.

For a relatively new platform, TikTok has managed to generate a large cultural standing, carving out a previously unmatched space for mass influence.

The addictiveness of the app – a reason it is so popular – can be partly attributed to its cutting-edge algorithm – highly developed in its ability to shape users’ ‘For You’ pages to their unique ‘level of interest’. Indicators like finishing a video from beginning to end, user location and the types of videos users interact with, all contribute to the personalisation of user feeds. However, when the algorithm is pervasively feeding health advice, regardless of its validity, to impressionable children and teens – without their explicit consent to do so – this personalisation has the potential to turn sinister.

Health and Fitness advice is well established in the social media ecosystem. Beginning in Youtube communities, it eventually bled into Instagram feeds and now more recently,  TikTok has taken the reigns.

My growing suspicion towards TikTok didn’t begin until I decided to “get back into fitness” – like many did during lockdown – using TikTok’s search bar to source workout ideas and routines. It was then, that the content on my feed slowly began to change. All of a sudden, whenever I opened the app, I was flooded with videos about different workouts, “how to be in a calorie deficit”, and ‘what I eat in a day’ videos, often perpetuated by slim and toned creators, who often didn’t show a realistic amount of food.

 

Through looking at a couple of workout videos, I was unknowingly placing my “interest” in the health and fitness category on TikTok, which the algorithm then held onto, and adapted the content it showed me to reflect that. Eventually, the content on my TikTok feed extended beyond the workout ideas that I initially sought out, and onto advice about my diet, things I should or shouldn’t be eating or drinking, and different workouts to give me a particular desired body type. I was overwhelmed.

What’s wrong with health and fitness advice?

Although these types of videos may not strike some users as outrightly harmful, the pervasive nature of diet culture and the fitness industry when fed consistently to impressionable users, has the potential to garner harmful perceptions of body image and obsessive behaviours, far too young.

This largely stems from the widely engrained behaviour, of associating morality with different diets or lifestyles. Chocolate is seen as “bad” or “junk”, vegetables are “good” and “clean”, and going to the gym everyday will make you “better than” someone who does not.

 

By assigning so much moral value to the foods we choose to eat and exercise we choose to do, the likeliness of guilt when we don’t do these things, is much higher. This moral value is ultimately delineated from the fact that a large part of society continues to subconsciously perpetuate fatphobic narratives and maintain thinness as the gold standard for how a woman should look.

These ideals are further exacerbated on TikTok, due to the feedback economy of the platform, whereby comments and likes denote how videos are generally perceived. A recent example of this was called out by Emma Matthews (@sheismarissamatthewss on TikTok), who concluded that the many comments on TikTok “reinforce thin privilege and fatphobia”. She compared the comments of her ‘what I eat in a day video’ – where she got criticised for eating three eggs and using an “inappropriate amount of olive oil” – to the comments of ‘thin’ creators’ food videos, who were predominantly praised for what they eat – therefore demonstrating how users often idealise and favour those who fit into their preferred body type.

Therefore, if teens and tweens manage to get onto the “side” of TikTok swarmed with health and fitness advice, the persistent messaging of the “perfect” diet and lifestyle, has the potential to generate obsessive or harmful relationships with food and exercise, in an attempt to mirror what they see from their favourite creators.

Amid the more latent presentations of diet culture, although more hidden, are pro-anorexia accounts, particularly dangerous in their encouragement of starvation and extreme restriction around food. It was when one of these videos popped up on my TikTok feed, with the caption “If you ate over 1200 calories today you are fat”, that I recognised the true danger of TikTok’s personalised algorithm. I had never searched for this ‘pro-ana’ content, nor expressed any interest in videos on restrictive eating or diets. But it is accounts like these, despite efforts from TikTok to remove them from the platform, have the potential to be grouped into the health and fitness category, and find their way to the “For You Pages” of teens and tweens.

Body image isn’t a new issue.

Concerns around body image in children and adolescents are already an unfortunately common occurrence, with the Mission Australia 2020 Annual Youth Survey reflecting that 33% of participants saw body image as an area of major concern in their lives. Another survey in 2021 showed that out of 93 students, 45% showed a high level of concern for their body image. It is clear the ubiquity of body image concerns in children and adolescents – an issue that is arguably not improved by the persistent nature of TikTok’s algorithm.

Considering previous research that discovered girls ages 5-8, when simply looking at a Barbie Doll, experienced body dissatisfaction and a desire for thinness, it is important to recognise the capacity for TikTok – and social media in general – to project this bombardment of health and fitness advice onto their audience, without regard for the young and vulnerable nature of the users they are targeting.

If looking at a Barbie doll can cause that much harm, think about what a carefully curated selection of targeted health and fitness videos can do.

How do I talk to my kids about this?

The solution to this doesn’t come with banning your kids from TikTok or confiscating their phones upon hearing this information. Our society is saturated with potentially harmful information around health and fitness, and perpetuations of a thin-ideal – but it is the way that kids perceive this information that defines the harm it can cause.

One way that you can help reinforce positive relationships with health and fitness with your children, is by modelling that positive relationship yourself. Some ways parents can do this are:

  • Engaging in healthy eating habits yourself: consistently participating in fad diets or outwardly expressing guilt for eating certain foods are behaviours children can pick up on, and implement into their own lifestyles at a later point.
  • Making meals a positive and communal experience: research has shown that a frequency in family meals can lead to inverse effects of disordered eating, and better psychological outcomes for children.
  • Teaching kids about critical thinking: by explaining how to practice critical thinking while on social media, it becomes easier for children and teens to recognise the misinformation or unhealthy content that they might be exposed to, and purposely disengage with it. Often, parents are also encouraged to watch TikTok’s with their children, and openly talk about the misrepresentation that they see.

I, like many others, have been exposed to the more sinister side of TikTok health and wellness, but through educating myself and talking to others, I have become aware enough about diet culture and health advice, that I can recognise and ignore misinformation. By navigating TikTok with intention and purpose, seeking out trusted sources and shielding myself from the guilt-shrouded influence of diet culture, I am able to be largely unaffected by the persistent messaging of TikTok’s health and fitness community – and I encourage teens and kids using TikTok to do the same.

Aussies mums are redefining the term ‘influencer’ and inspiring their audience through fashion, humility and organic content, writes Alyssa Batticciotto.

“I’m just a normal person. I’m not a celebrity, I’m not on TV, I’m just a mum who likes to post online and sometimes people like that,” says Instagram micro influencer, Breeahn.

In an ever-changing landscape, the influencer space is unknown and “fickle”. We have all heard of these big-name influencers – AFL wags turned mums, supermodels and reality stars with an impressive following and sponsored content. But what about those mums who have grown their audience solely from organic content and “a passion for fashion”?

The young mummy micro influencer does not focus on likes, comments or follower count but rather focuses on meaningful connection with their audience and an organic endorsement of their posts. These women are using Instagram for the love and taking back those negative connotations associated with the term ‘influencer’.

But what is a mummy blogger? Are they paid? Do they have to be glamorous? What are the prerequisites?

34-year-old Breeahn is a mother of two and has amassed a following of almost 13,000 as @the_aussiemummy.

Speaking to Breeahn while she’s sitting in her PJs, she’s not what you would typically imagine of an Instagram influencer. With her unique style and iconic pink hair, Breeahn is taking on life as a mummy influencer.

“Instagram is my happy place,” she says.

Although her feed is beautiful, she still reveals a very raw and honest depiction of her life, opening up to her followers in a way that has built an incredibly loyal foundation.  It is an influencer’s relationship with their audience that makes or breaks them. “I definitely care about my audience. I’m here for them,” says Breeahn.

Originally starting her page as a way to share the fashion she loves with people; it has grown to the point where she receives gifts in exchange for promotion and runs her account “like a business”. However, this isn’t her only business venture as she also works in digital marketing.

With many people now realising the potential of a career on Instagram, some have tried to exploit the platform for their own financial gain.

“A lot of young people are looking at Instagram as a career and I find that to be problematic as to be an influencer you have to be really genuine. It has to come from a place of you really just wanting to help your audience out not ‘I want to make money’ because at the end of the day, you’re there for your audience, not there to make money,” says Breeahn.

It can be hard to distinguish genuine content from sponsored or altered feeds and finding an influencer you especially resonate with has become more and more difficult.

An influencer profile typically uses the ‘business function’ of the Instagram page.

Sometimes, influencers may be offered money to endorse certain products, this is typically found in the pages that boast a 50,000+ following. These payments can range anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to the thousands, with bloggers charging different rates for different types of content.

There is no perfect formula to gaining an impressive following on Instagram. Two visually similar pages can have entirely different followings and engagement.

Despite the competition, Breeahn finds that the influencer world “is more of a community” and rather places emphasis on what she can do to make her content “unique and special” in a way that her “audience will like”.

However, according to social media professor, Dr Brent Crocker, “it does matter what you’re posting, it is important to specialise in something”. A page will usually gain traction and a large following when they are consistent with messaging, posting, content and establishing a genuine bond with their audience.

When thinking of influencers, most people associate the term with young models with followers reaching the millions but often an influencer’s audience can range from a mere couple of thousand to the millions. There are no numeric limitations on when someone can be described as an influencer or not.

While 13,000 followers don’t seem like much in the current climate of such a far-reaching platform, it is often these hidden gems that resonate with their audiences. In fact, brands are starting to realise the importance of finding influencers who have a deeper connection with their following. They have identified the correlation between engagement and product purchase.

Engagement rate is the sum of the likes and comments that a page receives per post, divided by the page’s number of followers.

Engagement rates are healthy metrics to monitor because they underline how frequently the page’s following interacts with their content, and forces pages to focus on important data, rather than vanity metrics (like the number of followers).

“Nano influencer followers are closer to them and tend to have more influence. Macro influencer engagement is relatively poor, people don’t always listen to them,” says Dr Coker.

With audiences becoming more and more aware of sponsored content this can often lead to a decrease in audience engagement for endorsed influencers or those with a large following.

 Micro influencers are a fantastic way for brands to promote products as it provides the brand with content to repurpose and enhances product credibility.

Dr Coker says that it’s another form of “good old classic endorsement but it’s packaged in a new way. It’s regular people, micro influencers, that people relate to on another level”.

The growing power of influencers is continually being recognised and utilised by brands. Brand ambassadors (social media users who promote solely for a specific brand) as ‘regular people’ is a newfound norm as brand’s realise the benefits of partnering with not only the influencers themselves but their dedicated and attentive audiences.

Social media marketer, Marija Likoravec, has noticed a “huge” increase in mummy bloggers in comparison to other Instagram niches.

Being a new mother herself, Marija feels she can relate to these influencers on a personal level and says that “80% of the time [working with them] it’s fantastic, they are usually super flexible and quite down to earth”.

In her experience, Marija has noticed that it is the mummy blogger’s audience who are the most engaged and receptive to new, advertised products. As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, many aspects become fused together.

“I almost feel like the mummy blogger community is the new mother’s group,” says Marija.36-year-old, mum of two, Rebecca McDonnell is behind the Instagram page @thebargainstyler_ with a following of over 30,000.

While not her full-time occupation, Bec has enjoyed the creative freedom of running a successful bargain hunter page.

“Instagram as a hobby has been really good to keep me busy and have something a little bit different other than motherhood the whole entire time,” she says.

From the beginning, Bec was able to identify what worked and what didn’t with her following and has been using the same formula ever since.

With some fashion bloggers Instagram pages filled with numerous sponsored posts it can often be a breath of fresh air to see influencers posting content that they love. “The key to my growth is organic posting,” says Bec.

However, with followers and admiration does come the flip side. Trolls and negativity online showcase the darker side of Instagram where people take pleasure in belittling and bullying others. Although we might not have a personal experience in it, most if not all internet users have seen negative comments at least once.

“People don’t understand that there’s a person on the other side of that Instagram account. Words and comments do hurt us,” says Breeahn.

When we think back to Instagram’s initial release, we remember its original purpose – to share the content we love with the world.

Does a woman of privilege and power ever have the right to complain?

 

The world has growing consciousness over the difficulties mental health presents, and yet, it appears there is still progress to be made before everyone is permitted to speak up and say how they truly feel.

Meghan Markle was at the centre of a social media storm following the controversial documentary ‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.’

Many were outraged, remarking the Duchess was audacious in complaining about her privileged position within the British Royal Family, while on a tour of Africa, around those who are, arguably, some of the world’s poorest.

In contrast, many were impressed with Meghan’s honesty and for highlighting the fact many new parents find it difficult to cope even with a privileged social and financial position.

Some felt this statement was ill timed, given their documentary was to highlight their tour of Africa; however Meghan raises an important point of discussion: regardless of a person’s socio-economic background, hormonal ups and downs caused by pregnancy and life with a newborn can impact on a person’s mental health. Once the initial euphoria subsides, overwhelming emotions can be hard, for anyone, to process.

Statistics for anxiety and depression in parents are alarmingly high, with up to 1 in 10 women experiencing antenatal anxiety and depression and more than 1 in 7 experiencing postnatal depression, as reported by PANDA.

 

Men do not escape unharmed from the effects of pregnancy either, with research from PANDA stating 1 in 20 men will experience antenatal anxiety and depression and up to 1 in 10 new dads are likely to experience postnatal depression.

Having a new baby creates multiple changes, many of which are overwhelming: concern about parenting ‘correctly’; the sleep deprivation; breastfeeding challenges; hormonal changes; relationship changes; financial strain and career concerns, all come into play.

Some assume Meghan has no rights to complain. For instance, she has no money worries, appears to be in a happy, devoted marriage and has a large team of staff supporting her within the prestigious British Royal Family, how can she be struggling?

However, Meghan is talking about mental health, which we are continually reminded, does not discriminate. Mental health affects our favourite movie stars, singers, TV personalities and athletes.

It is easy to assume those in privileged positions are vaccinated against any form of sadness, anxiety or depression. But in reality, could it be the assumption they are coping, which ignites their predisposition to mental health struggles?

 

Whether you love or loathe the Duchess of Sussex, she raises an important point about the internal damage that can be caused by keeping quiet about the state of your mental health.

In conclusion, asking someone if they are ok is a question everyone should be asked. It is a question that could potentially lead to that person asking for the help they desperately need.

If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out, speak to your medical professional or seek support from organisations, such as Beyond Blue and PANDA.

Look for the Good – What is a ‘gratitude jar’ and why do we all need one?

The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters on both a large and small scale. We face a constant barrage of awful stories from the most remote corners of the globe.

Gloom and doom seems ever-present each time we power up a device. It seems like we are surrounded by bad news everywhere we look.

I think to be fair, in the past we had less exposure to news items. There was the daily paper or the 6 o’clock news broadcast. Any truly important newsworthy items could be found in one of those two sources.

“The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters”

Now that we have a 24 hour a day 7 days a week news-cycle, the content in these feeds need to be constantly added to and updated. Items that in years before were considered local news now find their way into the worldwide news feed.

It has been shown in the research that anxiety and depression is on the rise among all age groups – but particularly in teens. This is a world-wide phenomenon. It isn’t limited to our street, our neighbourhood or our community.

“Anxiety and depression is on the rise…particularly in teens”

This worries me as an individual but it worries me so much more as a mother.

You see, our kids live their lives on their mobile devices – laptops, iPads and the ever-present mobile phones, which means that they see this negative narrative constantly.

“Our kids live their lives on their mobile devices”

I read recently that the greatest weapon we have in our safeguarding our mental health is choosing our thoughts wisely. This resonated with me.

We can choose to look at, and focus on those dark and awful news stories or we can choose to refocus and shine a light on the good and positive things in our lives. I know that sounds like a really big task but it can be as simple as very small daily or weekly ritual or habit.

For years now I have tried to help my kids with looking for joy and light in their day – every night at dinner we each share our “three good things” about our day.

They don’t have to be great achievements or world-changing events. They can be as simple as being grateful for a lovely meal cooked for them or sunshine on their face on the way to school or a kind word from a friend.

All those tiny little good things add up!

So last year we had a tough year. Not massive big disasters, but seemingly many little small scale challenges and hardships that just wore us all down little by little. Wow, were we happy to see the end of 2018!

So over the Christmas break I made a gratitude jar for my desk. My idea was that each time we have cause to celebrate we pull out one of the little tags inside and write down our good thing and drop it in the jar. Once again, I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions.

“Each time we have cause to celebrate we…write down our good thing”

“As simple as  a girls lunch or coffee with lovely friends or getting joy from meeting a stranger’s puppy on the beach, finding some lovely sea glass, watching rosellas on our bird feeder whilst we eat brekky, or one of our fabulous  kids coming home from university for the weekend!”

“I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions…[it can be] as simple as a girls lunch or coffee”

All good positive events – I bought a fab pen to drop inside and added a bunch of blank cards ready to collect our good moments.

At the end of the year (or hey, before then if we are having a really bad day) we will pull out all the little tags and review our pile of golden sunshine!

Re-focus!

My plan is that at the end of the year I will buy a cheap and colourful little notebook and glue the tags in to make a collection of all of our highlights and to clear the jar ready for the year ahead. I can see this jar is going to bring us much joy in the years to come.

So we know that life is full of challenges and celebrations …. moments good and bad.

Life is good, not perfect, right!

Our gratitude jar is not about having no hardship or having a perfect “instagrammable” life  but simply about choosing to focus on our blessings.

Our little gratitude jar has now become a favourite gift for friends and family. The kids drop a few tags into the jar before we gift it telling the person some of the things they LOVE and are grateful for about the person

There is no greater gift than the gift of being loved and appreciated.

Our Gratitude jar is enriching not only our own days but the strengthening the relationships we build.

Kathryn is a wife and mother to 4 children. The family have now settled back in Australia after time spent in Hong Kong and The United Kingdom. Her aim was always to have the children raised in an Australian household – even if that was overseas. The challenges faced and blessings enjoyed whilst living in foreign cultures and adjusting and adapting helped to shape her gratitude focus. Kathryn is a medical sonographer and in addition to working in her chosen profession she also works in the family business. She is passionate about photography and enjoys capturing the beauty of the coastline in her local area in her free time. Her passion for photography and travel have also combined to see her published on the topic in online travel publications.

 

High school teacher and mum of two, Kristy Do, hits the Insta-generation with a truth bomb: fame isn’t everything.

Arshad Khan, Lee Minwei, Pietro Bosselli, Irvin Randle are some of the many people who have become famous overnight – and not for reasons that one might expect. For these celebs, it was the sheer luck of having a photographer capture them in a mundane moment, followed by their image posted on social media, ensuing a viral frenzy. Like many overnight sensations, luck dances its magic wand over the careers of certain people and promotes them to instant stardom. Whilst there is no judgment for those who have the limelight thrust upon them, there is an alarming message sent to young people: fame is easily attainable and the cost of that lifestyle is minimal. If only life were that simple.

As a teacher I often get students who claim their aspiration is to be ‘Insta-famous’ or some sort of public figure. My first response is to roll my eyes and ask ‘why?’

As a teacher I often get students who claim their aspiration is to be ‘Insta-famous’ or some sort of public figure. My first response is to roll my eyes and ask ‘why?’ Please don’t get me wrong. I love Iggy Azalea, I love Drake, I love (some) insta-famous models, but teens today now believe that butt implants and fast cars are the shiz as a result of these celebs. To the young, one million likes on an Instagram photo means you’ve truly made it in life (it’s a life us peasants could only dream of). When students allude to this as an aspiration with no understanding of the work involved, it’s enough to make any teacher lol.

We’ve all dreamed of being publicly acknowledged in some form or capacity – but desiring fame at the expense of pursuing one’s passions is a dangerous path to follow.

Craving fame is a stark reflection of one’s dissatisfaction with life and the desire to want to be noticed in the crowd. We’ve all dreamed of being publicly acknowledged in some form or capacity – but desiring fame at the expense of pursuing one’s passions is a dangerous path to follow. It’s important adolescents are encouraged to pursue careers that align with their skills and passions, regardless of whether that leads to fame. The notion that fame leads to happiness is a dismal one. One can only look at the lives of many celebrities today and see the countless men and women who are turning to alcohol and drugs because they can’t hack life in the spotlight. Being famous comes at a high cost to families, and one’s mental health. Teens need to know this.

No teacher wants to stifle the idealistic idea of following one’s dreams, but they do have a responsibility to lead students to realistic pathways and highlight where students might need a plan to follow that dream.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here waiting for instant fame as a Freelance Writer.

Kristy is a Secondary Teacher, Freelance Writer and mum to two kids. She’s passionate about inspiring young minds, story-telling, and double shot coffee.

How many hours per day does your daughter spend on Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat?

A new study by BioMed Central has revealed that the use of social media impacts the well-being of girls much more than boys, with the well-being of those aged ten and over deteriorating in particular.

The study uses data gathered from youth questionnaires carried out over ten to fifteen years in the UK. Social media interaction is determined by two main questions: “Do you belong to a social website such as Bebo, Facebook or MySpace?” and “How many hours do you spend chatting or interacting with friends through a social website like that on a normal school day?” Well-being, on the other hand, is measured in relation to happiness concerning six domains of life: friends, family, appearance, school, school work and life as a whole.

We’ve summarised the confronting results for you below:

  • Black African/Caribbean adolescents have better well-being at age 10 compared to White British adolescents
  • Both Asian males and females show a greater increase in happiness with age when compared to their White British counterparts
  • Overall, social media interaction increases with age and decreases happiness with age for both males and females
  • For females in particular, well-being deteriorates with greater use of social media at age 10 and this trend is sustained throughout their teenage years

 

The study discusses possible reasons to explain the findings above:

Asian and Black African/Caribbean adolescents chat less on social media compared to their White British counterparts.

Adolescents from households with lower education or income levels tend to interact more on social media.

Males prefer to game instead of interacting on social media.

These results are striking, especially in their similarity to the social media environment in Australia.

Reasons for this link between social media and wellbeing is also examined: the paper claims that use of social media naturally produces ‘risk factors’ such as social isolation, low self-esteem, increased obesity and decreased physical exercise.

Perhaps the greatest consequence can be summarised using the slang term FOMO: fear of missing out.

The paper states, “While social media allows for interaction between people, it is still a sedentary activity that can be done in a solitary environment. Conversely, social media are often used in group settings. Whether done in isolation or with friends, there may be risks to using social media, which could lead to poorer physical and mental health in adulthood.”

So next time you see your daughter mindlessly scrolling through her phone, take a second look at her and wonder, “Are you feeling okay? Are you happy? Do I need to take that phone away from you?”