Net Safety: How Social Networks Can Be Protective
Research shows that community (one's social network) is protective as well as supportive – now let's leverage that to further youth online safety.
It's arresting to think about what Stewart Wolf, M.D. – discovered and presented at medical conferences, as told by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers – in the context of social media and online safety today. Back in the 1950s, he found a community in Pennsylvania statistically very free of the No. 1 medical concern of the time, heart disease, and looked into what was going on there. When Wolf presented his research, he found that his skeptical colleagues "weren't thinking about health in terms of community [emphasis Gladwell's]." Now sub in (online) "safety" for "health": "Wolf and [his co-researcher, sociologist John] Bruhn had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way: they had to get them to realize that they wouldn't be able to understand why someone was healthy if all they did was think about an individual's personal choices or actions in isolation. They had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was a part of, and who their friends and families were...."
Now add the online piece A child's (anybody's) safety and wellbeing have a lot to do with his community offline and online, since the research shows that our online social networks are largely our offline ones.
Almost echoing Dr. Wolf, USATODAY reports that, "for the most part, being part of a social network is good for you.... For example, a study in this month's Scientific American Mind finds that social support and social networking offer benefits, from additional resilience to greater life satisfaction to reducing the risk of health problems. Other studies in the past two years have found that feeling like a part of a larger group helps in stroke recovery and memory retention and boosts overall well-being." And the co-authors of a new book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, report that so much of what we think of as individual, e.g., body shape, politics, happiness, are really "collective phenomena."
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