Is Social Media Making Cliques Worse?

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What are cliques?

Multiethnic Group of Teenagers Outdoor

Counterintuitively, larger schools with a greater diversity of students tend to encourage cliques. This is because students, being anxious to form meaningful relationships, seek out like minded peers to form friendships with. Conversely, smaller schools with smaller classrooms tend to force teens to form friendships across socioeconomic and cultural lines.

Popular culture, such as the film The Breakfast Club, which came out in the 1980’s and the TV show Daria  which aired in the 1990’s neatly document how teenagers behave in cliques and what happens when teens in different cliques have to interact with one another.

Cliques and social media

High School cliques predate social media by decades. However, the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms has changed the way cliques work, according to How Stuff Works. No longer does a student have to stand around with his or her clique in the school cafeteria. Instead, he or she can leave messages on social network sites. Incidentally, social media has fostered the growth of cliques among adults in their 30’s and even into their 40’s!

happy smiling group of diverse girls at summer camp

MIT once conducted a study that suggested that social networks, dating back to Usenet from the last century and going forward to Facebook and similar platforms today, foster the development of cliques, even though the number of participants number in the hundreds of thousands at any given time. People with similar tastes in movies and music and the same politics tend to band together in smaller networks, Sociologists have even coined a term for this phenomenon: homophily. In effect, social media is just one, big high school.

The problems with social media and cliques

One of the problems with interacting with other people on social media is that it fosters a certain emotional distance. Without the visual and verbal ques that people get when talking face to face, accurate communication is sometimes difficult. The other person is just a small head-shot and a brief bio on a computer or handheld electronic device and not a living, breathing human being.

Social media and the cliques that form on them tend to exacerbate two of the banes of teenage life, peer pressure and social isolation.

Unhappy Girl Being Bullied In Class

Parentmap suggests that social media has allowed the development of virtual peer pressure. A teenager can like, unlike, blacklist, cyber bully, and ostracize other teenagers with a few key strokes, without witnessing directly the consequences of such actions. Peer pressure can now take place over vast distances and, with teens who have lots of Facebook friends, with great power.

Cardinal Points notes that time on social media, rather than fostering connections, often causes social isolation and anxiety. A teenager might see his or her friends mentioning things on Facebook that he or she hasn’t a clue about. Kids will find out that a party is going on that they haven’t been invited to. In turn, this experience causes a sense of isolation and anxiety.

How to deal with cliques and social media

Mother embracing and soothes depressed daughterDealing with problems like peer pressure and isolation that takes place on social media can be a problem for parents because it often takes place out of their purview. The best way to deal with these problems is to be aware that they are happening before the signs, such as withdraw from parents, demands for certain trendy clothes, or other alarming behaviors, is to monitor your children’s social media. The trick is to know when to intervene and when not to. No one likes a helicopter parent. Too much intervention is likely to only make matters worse. In any case, good parenting, teaching leadership skills and self-esteem, are the keys for helping your kids cope with the new virtual cliques.

What else can parents do?

On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here at Netsanity, we recommend following age-appropriate guidelines as well as these tips:

  • Think teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
  • Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
  • Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. Be aware yourself about how posting a pic of your latest tropical vacation may make someone who is struggling financially or has recently lost a job loss feel.
  • Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween or teen a break from their mobile devices. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, SnapChat, After School, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away or starting to feel depressed. They have a 14-day free trial, if you want to check it out – for Apple devices.

Sometimes all they need is a break!

We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!

Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

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