Healthy Ways to Use Digital Media
Rachel: Welcome to today’s webinar ‘Healthy Ways to Use Digital Media’. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Phil Quinn as our presenter. Dr. Quinn has facilitated hundreds of trainings and webinars for Beacon Health Options over the years and we are thrilled to have him today to join us in this webinar.
Dr. Quinn is the Chief Psychologist at South Shore Medical Mental Health Center and a psychiatric consultant at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and he is a corporate consultant and trainer, and without further ado, Dr. Quinn, I will turn things over to you.
Dr. Phil Quinn: Accustomed to we are going to be talking about healthy ways to use digital media. A clearly important topic and an ever-changing topic, we hear stories almost everyday regarding the risk of digital media. And these include identity theft, stolen emails, stocking, but in many ways the risks of digital media or cause are really a result of really poor judgment maybe in our part. We are often too lazy with our passwords. We give out our passwords or we use poor judging, we give our personal information. It’s very easy apparently to do people to giving personal information. We often give our information in social media that we would never give out in real life, so that’s something important to remember that if you feel uncomfortable about giving any of your personal information to somebody sort of in live, that’s important that in social media you follow the same traffic. Today, we are going to focus on defining digital media, even though that most people clearly understand that, we are going to take a look at the benefits and some of the risks of digital media. We will talk a little bit about strategies to use it in a healthy way. But more importantly as we discuss about digital media today I’d like all of you to think about your use of social media and how it helps you and what are the risks that you are aware of, and maybe equally as important, what are the risks that you are not aware of, and these are the things that are always the most difficult for us. First, I am going to read a definition from Wikipedia about social media. Any media that are encoded in a machine-readable format. Digital media can be created, viewed distributed, modified, and preserved on digital electronics devices. In other words, anytime we use our computer, iPad, smartphones, or all the other devices that we have to communicate to participate any transaction or to store any financial or personal information, we are really using digital information, and it really applies to most, almost, all people today, and again, during our presentation today, I would like you to think for a moment. What is your definition of digital media and when do you use digital social media? I should also like you to think about during our presentation, and really over the next couple of weeks, what are the healthy and unhealthy ways you use media and what are some of the risky ways that you use digital media, and think about that for a moment. There are many examples of digital media and many of these things really didn’t exist just a few years ago. We all think of eCommerce, anytime we buy something, think about Amazon, think about –that is a company that’s really one of the largest companies in the world that didn’t exist a short time ago. Many people are now used to buying things online that had never done that before. Also gaming consoles, how many kids or adults now use gaming. Websites, or any mobile application, and when we use websites, do we really know the website that we are referring to and a social media and digital media is speeding, we will get the animation, video, augmented reality, but also the social media that we are all familiar with in terms of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and many, many people today use these sites on a regular basis multiple times a day, and as you use your media and as your family uses your media and many expanding – in ever expanding ways, what are some of the risks about the benefits that you receive? I think it is important to take a moment, just take a step back and look at the ways that we’ve benefited from this explosion of digital media.
I think the first thing we all think about really is convenience. Think back just a few years ago that if you wanted more information on a subject, you may have to go to the library, go to the card catalogue, look up the information and find the source, and you realize that took a tremendous amount of time. Now you can look up information within moments and have multiple sites and multiple opinions about this information as well.
Certainly networking professionally, LinkedIn or other professional websites allows us to interact with people in our own profession. Get ideas about where the profession is going. Have job sites available to us and actually sent to us if we are in a particular profession. So we realize that we can network, not only locally, but we can network internally and nationally at a relatively quick pace.
It’s not one of us who is writing an article and I e-mailed somebody and he happened to be in Tel Aviv University and he got back to me within maybe 5 minutes giving information I needed, that would have taken letters -- international letters and weeks and weeks to accomplish just a few years ago.
We can also meet people and expand our social world, especially in areas of interest that we have, if we have a special hobby. If we collect certain things that we can communicate with people in many other countries, in many other cultures quickly in a real-time, we can increase our knowledge how all of us had looked up information and increased our knowledge on whether it’s a professional issue, a personal issue or even just a hobby issue.
We can develop new skills, take courses online, next to the driving downtown to a University parking and all the time and expense that occurs. Many people receive master’s degree, all they have to do is click on the site right after they finish work. So it really has become very convenient for us. Also we can receive support whether it is social support, so a support around an issue that we are all dealing with. So it’s clear that there are many, many benefits for social and digital media that we all use daily and we come to rely on, on a regular and daily basis.
There are some risks however, and today we’re going to focus a little bit more on the risk because those are the things we often don’t think about, anytime any tool that we use is convenient. We think about, we don’t think about often the downside. We all think about today, however, is loss of privacy. All you have to do is Google yourself and you find how much information is online about you that you didn’t even realize; you know, where you live, who lives with you, what kind of home you have, and you realize all this information that we could keep private, just a few years ago it’s all on the public domain.
Financial issues; all our financial information is online and there maybe some risk to that information. Loss of reputation; people put things on social media that they think are private but really are not, and this create some conflicts not only interpersonally but also with colleagues between companies, et cetera. So as we see with the loss of privacy there are risks that we all have to be aware of.
Mental health issues; it’s not unusual where people are on Facebook, et cetera, so long during the day and that could be several hours a day, but they get depressed when they move away from it.
Also some of the relationship issues that they are seeing are not real relationships, and this is especially true with young people who haven’t developed the interpersonal skills yet, will do all their communication online.
Finally we can put inappropriate information, whether it’s pornography, sexting, et cetera, and miscommunication. In real communication one of the things we are able to do on a regular basis is a person is concerned what we’re saying we can easily clarify it. Sometimes that’s difficult on social medica and it stays there for a long period of time.
It also and more importantly can affect our overall abilities to communicate. One of the things we all learn when we communicate in person is we develop the appropriate social skills. We can pick up body language, facial expressions, nuances in language that are easier face-to-face. People who get all their social needs met online often miss out on its very important aspect. You can create the illusion of friendships rather than real friendships.
It’s nice to have friends online, we can -- now that means we can have friends in other countries, other cultures, but they really shouldn’t substitute for real friends. These are not the people we ever get to meet, these are not often the people we really do anything with but communicate with.
So this is especially important for younger people. If you have children, and all of their friends are online, remember, these are more penpal type relationships than real relationships most of the time. So take a look at your relations, are you spending – are all your social relationships developed and maintained online, are your relationships developed interpersonally face-to-face, and what the social media does is keep relationships going when there is distance between us.
But as a result it can lead to socialize a relation because often it’s not unusual where people have social friends they just disappear from the digital world. If you have children, teenage, you will hear stories about cyberbullying, and the reason being is I think people feel more comfortable doing things online that they would never do face-to-face.
So you may say something about a person, rate somebody’s attractiveness, intelligence, personality style, it’s all out there for people to say some things that we wouldn’t do face-to-face. So one of the things we see online is people taking those social risks, those very inappropriate social risks, they would never use another forms.
There are also some risks on the job. We have to remember that digital social media posts can last forever, and I don’t think people can really appreciate that. It can impact our ability to get a job. Social media lasts forever. Companies will review job, applicant’s digital media presence and their history. So that the benign post that a recent college graduate puts on a party, they really affect his or her ability to find a job in the future. We read everybody about somebody losing a job because of an inappropriate post on digital media.
Remember, everything on social media is interpreted. A post may be taken out of context, but we have very little control about this. I guess the old adage, we should never do post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want to be repeated over-and-over again and which you would want in the public domain. Everything goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet. And again, it may stay on the Internet literally forever.
The other thing is we have all had those days where we surfed the Internet and may be our productivity has gone down a little bit. And kids, especially kids, who know how to hide their social media use from their parents often see grades suffer. Why? Because instead of studying, they are talking to their friends, they are interacting with different websites. So certainly if you are a parent, you want to be aware of what is happening.
It is important to first of all also protect yourself. One of the best ways to protect ourselves is start with your computer, your smartphone, and all your other devices. Always use the secure password and use intricate and complicated passwords, not your initials and your birthday and not something that easily -- can be easily figured out. Never share your passwords with anyone. I know we say that but we don’t always follow up on that.
Change passwords regularly. That is very difficult because most of use to log-in at work, to log-in at our bank accounts, to log-in on our credit cards, we need new passwords, so we have multiple passwords that clearly make things difficult for us, but we also want to make it difficult for anybody who is trying to steal our information.
Know the websites you access, be careful the e-mails you answer, be careful some of the information that is requested from you. And also, investigate anti-spyware software and also investigate the use of a firewall. It can be very helpful to talk to an IT professional about protecting your devices. Sometimes a little bit of work goes a long way to protecting ourselves.
I see many good habits to protect yourself. We really have to think about it from a personal perspective, what’s our personal information that we would not want out there, physically, that how much information do we share about where we live, where we are at? Do we share information we are on vacation? Do we post all our pictures of our trip? Essentially giving a message, by the way while we are in the Europe we are not home. It tends people to figure that out quite easily.
Financially, be careful of websites that you use, financial websites, but also where you keep your information about your retirement and other aspects.
Be a positive role model for our children. Don't text and drive for example. And remember, we are always modeling behavior for our children. So even if we aren't aware of the behavior, we are always modeling, so it is important to use appropriate modeling, especially for our early teens that may be getting their driver's license pretty soon. To give the message that would not supposed to be texting and using the phone. Even though many states don't allow kids under 18 to text and use the phone while driving all you have to do is drive around the highway to this country to realize that it is happening.
Find balance between screen time and other times you enjoy.
Take a technology break periodically, so do not always on media. Just go out to a restaurant, you will see half the people sitting at the table not interacting with each other but interacting with their smartphones.
Avoid exposure to devices before you go to bedtime. There is some research that staring at the screen makes it harder for us to fall asleep and harder for us to fall into deep sleep.
Learn about privacy, ethics and digital etiquette. Again, all you have to do is riding in an elevator or being at a restaurant, people don't recognize they are interrupting up other people. And always remember that what's on the Internet will be there for a long time so it is important not to put the information out there that you really don't want out there.
As parents we are not only responsible for our use of social media sites but also for our children.
According to Pew Internet & American Life Project 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cool for another person on social network sites. The number of sexual assault cases related to social media has increased 300% over the last few years. 53% of teens have given out personal information to someone they don't know quoting photos and physical description.
And finally, 67% of teens said they know how to hide things on their lives from parents, and I think one of the things we have to recognize is our children for the most part are better at to look forward to other devices than we are, so we think we are monitoring them, but in reality they are really a step ahead.
So investigate some of the stuff where they help you monitor your Internet use. Talk with your experts, whether it be the guidance counselor, principal of school, your child's doctor, teachers, local police, what are the sites that people are using, the kids are using that you may not be aware of?
As a clinical psychologist I will often do that to ask my patients, especially younger patients what's happening on day-to-day? I don't have time to keep up with it, so I ask them and I realized there is a million different sites that every 15-year-old knows about but I didn't know about.
Try using social media together with your child and talk about the risks. Kids by nature are unaware of risk, so we can't expect them to be aware of that. So it is important for us to take that responsibility from them.
Brainstorm with your children about strategies to handle potentially difficult situations that you may not be there to help them. If somebody asks for information, it can be helpful to role-play, making sure that they know to get off the site when they are feeling uncomfortable. Always be a role model of your child.
Encourage your school and community to advocate for better media programs, it is very helpful.
Finally, stay involved with your child’s life, that probably is the best safeguard. According to the ‘Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics’ using social media website is among the most common activity of today’s children in adolescence and we have to remember it that our kids, they really have a developing brain. The frontal lobes in teens and twins are underdeveloped. So they are more impulsive and they trouble regulating self-regulating behavior.
Their emotional systems are in overdrive, and all you have to do is talk to your 15-year-old son or daughter to realize that. Teens and twins are greatly influenced by their piers. They reduce capacity and control their own social behavior so they are often influenced by themselves or predators online. And as a result as parents we have to be the people to help regulate this behavior. We can expect our kids, our high school kids and younger to really have the neurological, emotional capacity to regulate their own behavior. So we have to do this on an ongoing basis. Slowly end up that responsibility to them, rather than abdicate that responsibility when they are younger.
There is a couple of things to remember. When used in a healthy way our social media can expand our world, and it really has. We can have access to news media all across the world. We can have access to information about travel, about cultures that we never had before, and it really can keep us connected to people who move across country, move internationally.
We can Skype with family members, in real-time, thousands and thousands of miles away, but there are risks including identity theft. Loss of social skills and the opportunity to give out information that may harm us, and then also that is mis-communicated. As parents we have a responsibility to model this in our children and protect our children.