A 13-year old boy from Redding, Conn., was charged with disorderly conduct after he posted photos of handguns on Instagram.
Sang Nam, associate professor of communications in the department of film, video and interactive media in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University, is available to comment on teenagers’ behavior on social media platforms.
“We, educators, have stretched out the importance of teaching teens about the consequences of their online behavior, but these gun pictures from Redding show that we have a long way to go,” Nam said. “Why do teens demonstrate inflammatory behaviors online? In social media theory, it could be explained with behavioral confirmation or self-fulfilling prophecy. By studying the teen’s online behavior, we can get a sense of why they behaved this way without thinking of the consequence.
“By applying behavioral confirmation in a social media environment, we can say that peers’ social expectations lead them to act in ways that cause others to confirm the expectation,” Nam said. “In other words, these teens posted such inflammatory pictures because their Instagram followers expect them to do so. We still have to study their earlier posts to confirm this hypothesis, but it’s widely believed that teens often misbehave online because of peer pressure or peers’ social expectations of them. When a teen posts one abnormal picture online and people show their approval by liking it or commenting, that leads the teen to post more inflammatory pictures to get more likes and comments. It happens easily online since your online persona is often different from the real you. Also, such behavior can be reinforced rapidly online since you only bond with people who share similar interests. If you show inflammatory behavior in real-life, you would be stopped by parents, teachers and the other authorities around you. But, your online persona is not surrounded by those people who might discourage such inflammatory behaviors. It’s the nature of the social media. You can easily block people who don’t tolerate your behavior and only bond with your kind of people. Thus, teens get easily blindfolded about any consequences of their online behavior. Teens obviously don’t know the proper ways to differentiate themselves from others. Somebody has to let them know the consequences of their online behaviors.”
To speak to Nam, please call John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac, at 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).