A new study by the University of Birmingham, and reported in the Times Educational Supplement, shows that teenagers are more critical of online content than adults.
High school students are more aware and critical of celebrity-endorsed content online, especially on social platforms, than adults give them credit for.
The secondary school students are able to recognize that celebrity-endorsed content is not (necessarily) applicable to their lives.
The University of Birmingham surveyed 1300 teenagers between the age of 13 and 18, from 10 schools, and found that students weren’t just consuming online information passively.
The study noted that most of these pupils would swipe past content that was not appropriate for their age group, even when it was marked as “recommended” or “suggested”.
These teens were also aware that peer pressure of posting selfies – that represented a cool life – could put pressure on them, as well as the likes that each post garnered.
Many of those surveyed were highly critical of online content endorsed by celebrities especially when it was health related.
One teenager said that celebrities were living “a certain life that we are not living”, and were more likely to be “having surgery” than to work out in a gym.
Victoria Goodyear, lead author of the paper, which is published in the journal Sport, Education and Society, said: “We know that many schools, teachers, parents and guardians are concerned about the health-related risks of social media for young people.
“But, contrary to popular opinion, not all young people are at risk from harmful health-related impacts. Many young people are critical of the potentially damaging information that is available.”
The study also reveals that some students found it hard to distinguish between real and fake posts and photos. This, the researchers said, left them vulnerable to celebrity influence.
The academics concluded that adults, such as teachers, have a crucial role to play in ensuring that pupils understand online information in a balanced way.
Professor Kathleen Armour, Birmingham’s pro-vice-chancellor for education, said: “It is important to be aware that teenagers can tip quickly from being able to deal competently with the pressures of social media to being overwhelmed. The sheer scale and intensity of social media can exacerbate the normal challenges of adolescence. Adult vigilance and understanding are therefore vital.”