(image by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty)
Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Tweens and young teens who use social media place a higher value on fame than kids who don't use it or use it infrequently, according to a new survey of media use among those ages 9-15.
"Kids who claim they want to be famous use more media," says lead author Yalda Uhls, a researcher at UCLA's Children's Digital Media Center, who will present the study Friday at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Seattle.
Of the 334 young people surveyed online with their parents' permission, almost half say they use social networks; among the under-13 age group, 23% use a social networking site; 26% of the younger group say they have a YouTube account.
A third (33%) of the young people surveyed said being famous was either somewhat important, important or very important.
Uhls used a five-point scale asking young people how important they believe fame is to their future; she says those who use social networking put a higher value on fame than those who don't use it. Findings show 54% of those who believe fame is "very important" for their future post photos often or "almost always;" 46% update their status that frequently; and 38% update their profile page that frequently.
Carl Pickhardt, an Austin psychologist and author of Surviving Your Child's Adolescence, out earlier this year, says social media gives young people an opportunity to "craft their own public identity."
"Social media has revolutionized early adolescence," he says. "They have this online refuge. There you are on the screen. All these people are saying nice things about you. They can control it. When I'm at school, I can't control my image, but online, I can put myself out there in the way that I want."
Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg, who will present a study on adolescent risk behaviors at the meeting Friday, likens social networking to the telephone and YouTube to television.
Steinberg, author of the 2011 book You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25, says they are just newer ways to communicate that shouldn't create too much alarm. Parents have always had photo albums of their children, now they're posting them online, he says.
"Fame-seeking is not new," Pickhardt says. "What's new is you can actualize part of that. You can post pictures and data about yourself. All of a sudden, you can imitate what it's like to be famous."
Teens and tweens who think they want to be famous need only to look to Justin Bieber, who posted videos of his singing on YouTube, which led to being "discovered" in 2008 when he was just 13.
Adults may encourage fame-seeking behavior and cultivate this aim for public recognition, Uhls says, by posting videos of their kids on YouTube or posting their photos on Facebook.
Yet even if parents don't do it, society will, the psychologists say.
"We live in a society in which self-promotion is a constant and in which American Idolor The Voice and for any of these reality shows, the main goal is to be discovered," says Steinberg.