Are kids revealing too much for social media fame?
Published Thursday, November 13, 2014 6:03PM EST
In a social media landscape dominated by Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, teens are posting too much personal information online in the hopes of achieving "#Instafame" like their Twitter idols, a new study says.
Researchers at the Kidsmediacentre at Centennial College say teens are sharing too many revealing selfies and too much personal information online in an effort to get the attention they crave.
Influenced by celebrity culture and the desire to be famous and followed online, teens are giving away too much about their lives – and exposing themselves to potential cyber bullying and identity theft in the process.
"Many youth have learned the more you reveal, the more controversial your posts," study co-author Debbie Gordon said Wednesday in a news release from Centennial College.
She says outrageous behavior and personal photos help teens build their personal "brand," but such posts can also come back to be harmful in the future.
The study, titled "#Instafame and the Epidemiology of a Selfie-Curated Culture," examined social media habits among middle school- and high school-aged teens over the course of a year to investigate how some under the age of 18 can boast more than 100,000 online followers.
The study also investigated how much value teens place on attention over online privacy, and examined the risks of "living large and chronicling all your personal details online."
It found that, for the most part, teens are ignoring the lessons about online privacy they learn in school.
However, savvy teens show they know what goes on the Internet lasts forever, and so they do show care in what they post.
The study says lonely, vulnerable and insecure teens are the ones more likely to push boundaries and post revealing photos in an effort to capture attention and praise.
Behaviour is normal?
University of Waterloo English professor Aimee Morrison, who was not involved in the study, says attention-seeking behaviour is normal among teens, but can be amplified by social media.
"Teens engage in attention-seeking behaviours as they grow into their adult selves and seek to find their own place and own voice," Morrison told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
Morrison says current celebrity culture encourages teens to be outrageous online in order to become important. She says reality TV is one culprit for this trend.
"People become famous just for living their lives outrageously in full view of the public," Morrison said. She points to socialite Kim Kardashian as a prime example of using outrageous behaviour to gain celebrity.
Morrison said Kardashian's springboard to fame was a sex tape released in 2007. Since then, Kardashian has stayed in the spotlight through her reality TV series "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," and through publicity stunts like posing nude earlier this week for Paper Magazine.
Kardashian currently boats more than 25.3 million Twitter followers.
Canadian pop star Justin Bieber rose to prominence after musician and producer Usher discovered him on YouTube. Now, Bieber has 56.7 million Twitter followers – the second-most in the world, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, first captured the public eye on the Disney Channel show "Hannah Montana," before launching her solo music career and revamping her image through hyper-sexual performances at various music award shows and in music videos.
#Instafame sometimes unwanted
But not everybody wants that kind of fame, and yet it can still happen to people not seeking it.
University of Calgary youth studies professor Shirley Steinberg points to the case of 16-year-old Alex Lee, a Target store employee in Texas, whose photo went viral earlier this month.
Someone snapped Lee's photo while he was at work and posted it under the hashtag #AlexFromTarget, without his knowledge.
Lee's Twitter following quickly jumped from 144 to more than 730,000 overnight, and he now has 2.3 million people following him on Instagram.
He's been interviewed on Ellen DeGeneres' show, and he's reportedly received death threats against himself and his family.
Steinberg says social media stalking is another drawback to having your personal information available for all to see online.
"There's this kind of permission that social media gives these creeps," Steinberg told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
Morrison says it's important for parents to have a discussion with their kids about celebrity and "the difference between fame and being notorious, and the attention that comes from creating a positive action in the world."