Victims of Social Network Media – Tweens and Teens

Social media is one of the largest marketing platforms for companies to advertise various categories of products and services. Today’s youth occupy a substantial fraction of the users, causing marketers to target adolescents as a major source of the company’s sales revenue.

Purpose of the Study

A recent social trend of children and adolescents developing materialistic behaviours have been ascending at an alarming rate. Parents are starting to question the effects of social network and media (SNM) on teenagers. To address the concerns of parents, the popular magazine, Psychology Today, has decided to do an article on whether platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or Facebook encourages an individual’s development on materialism. The contents of the magazine will also determine if a connection exists between social media and one’s psychological health.

Scope of the Study

The target audience of this issue’s magazine is parents. Specifically parents with dependents that fall between the categories of tweens (ages 8 to 12), teens (ages 13 to 18), or both. Therefore, the focus of the study will be on Canadian tweens and teens. The study will conclude the debate on social media and its influence on materialism, which allows parents to examine their child’s behaviour and to take further action if needed.

Literature Review

SNM sites have been a phenomenon for the past decade and they are still continuing to grow at a rapid pace (Gunawan & Huarng, 2015, p.2237). With SNM being so outrageously popular, marketers have been using SNM sites as a marketing tactic for all sorts of industries. This form of marketing is known as viral marketing. It encourages and facilitates consumers’ exchange of favourable opinions on products/services, companies, or brands via SNM. Viral marketing is used by companies due to its low-cost management (Gunawan & Huarng, 2015, p.2237).

Since viral marketing depends on social interaction with regards to the product companies are trying to sell (Gunawan & Huarng, 2015, p.2237), the primary target market of viral marketing are consumers between the ages of 8 to 18 years old. A large percentage of consumers within this age group have yet to understand the real worth of the products targeted to them (Vandana & Lenka, 2014, p.456). Therefore, marketers are able to attract SNM users of this age group to virtual communities and attempt to influence their buying decision of certain products (Gunawan & Huarng, 2015, p.2237).

A major factor that contributes to materialism is an individual’s exposure to the external environment. SNM is a significant variable in the external environment. Excessive exposure to the external environment tampers with an individual’s value system, making them prone to materialistic possessions (Vandana & Lenka, 2014, p.460). In 2000, Mistry conducted a study where children defined the degree of happiness and sadness of poor and rich people with the help of materialistic possessions such as computers, stationery items and toys (Vandana & Lenka, 2014, p.461).

Recently, researchers have established several psychiatric disorders with SNM, including depressive symptoms, anxiety and low-self esteem (Pantic, 2014, p.652). It is also believed that SNM promotes narcissistic behaviours as self – presentation is the principal user activity. The results of a report done by Mehdizadeh indicated Facebook users with lower self-esteem spent more time online to self-promote and manage their profiles than other users (Pantic, 2014, p.653). Andreassen et al. developed the Facebook Addiction Scale in 2012. It is a scoring system initially based on a total of 18 items, testing features of addiction such as salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse (Pantic, 2014, p.654). Therefore, a new field of psychiatric research looks at SNM as a potential addiction disorder as well as the focal point of many future studies (Pantic, 2014, p.654 – 655).

Considering all the evidence, though SNM has the benefits of alerting users about the new and innovative products available in the market, it does cause users to connect their happiness with materialistic possessions (Vandana & Lenka, 2014, p.462). Along with confusing happiness with materialism, SNM has been raising concerns on its mental health effects towards users.


In order to confirm the effects of social media fully on the development of materialism, surveys will be conducted with 300 individuals. Participants will be randomly selected and will fall between the ages of 8 to 18 years old. Since the interviews must take place in person, all 300 participants will be elementary or high school students from St. John’s, Newfoundland. The duration of the interview will be roughly 90 minutes. Participants will be exposed to three products from various categories through three different forms of media: YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. The three products included are Hatchimals, the Urban Decay Naked Heat eyeshadow palette and an iPhone 7. Popular review videos of each product will first be shown to participants via YouTube. After the video viewing process, participants will be directed to sign into their Facebook accounts (if they have Facebook accounts). Since Facebook displays ads on each user’s account based on search history, research conductors will purposely search the three products on Google beforehand without the participants knowing. This causes the three products to appear on the participant’s Facebook feed, giving them more exposure to the products. Finally, the participants will browse through an Instagram account provided to them. The Instagram account will be previously arranged by a research conductor. The three products mentioned are featured in certain photos of the account, such as a “mirror selfie” with an iPhone 7, or a “makeup of the day” photo using the Urban Decay Naked Heat palette. Participants will then proceed to do a structured survey with a list of opened and closed questions.

Secondary data and information will be obtained from scholarly articles through trusted online sources at the Memorial University Library.

Research Ethical Issues

One of the ethical concerns in this research study has to deal with its interview process. The interview consists of multiple parts and can take up to 60 – 90 minutes. Participants’ time constraints can easily become an ethical concern as their time is extremely valuable.

Before the interview process begins, all participants are ensured their participation is voluntary and that a consent form and confidentiality form is distributed to them for them to sign. The interviewer will also assure them that their identity and information will be kept private and anonymous. The answers from the interview will only be used towards this particular research.

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