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Three Lycoming College students collaborated with the James V. Brown Library this spring to create a highly interactive informational session to help kids and young adults identify threats on social media, and learn what to do if a piece of content negatively impacts the perception they have of themselves. Dubbed “Bodily Illusions: Social Media and You,” the project began at the start of the spring semester, with juniors Harmonie King, Jordan Ohmann, and Ella Rossman, in Psychology 120: Child and Adolescent Development.
Taught by Lori Curtindale, Ph.D., the class examines how children and adolescents grow and develop physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively from conception to young adulthood. At the start of the course, each student was given the choice of a semester-long project to complete: create an informational resource for families, write a children’s book, or host a community-based learning project. King, Ohmann, and Rossman chose to work together on a community-based learning project that focuses on social media.
The students recognized that although social media has become a major influence in the lives of adolescents, platforms such as Instagram and TikTok can set dangerous expectations when a young person does not know how to safely navigate content. Thanks to the popularity of filters, photo editing, and staging, social media posts are often edited to make the account owner look physically perfect. Without an understanding of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating an online persona, young viewers may assume that the people in those photos or videos have attained some sort of perfection in real life and unfairly compare themselves. The session was open to children ages 12 to 17, and taught them how to spot fake ideals and how to avoid comparing themselves to people they see online.
King, Ohmann, and Rossman agreed that they enjoyed the project and were thankful to have taken the class. They studied the impact of relationships, experiences, culture, and biology on development, and viewing all of this together helped to paint a clear picture of how adolescents grow and mature while adulthood emerges. The trio recommends the class to other students as well as anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of child and adolescent development.
“It was fun to see the marketing come together for the event, but the research is also so enlightening and useful for anyone that wants to work with kids,” said Ohmann. “It was cool to see this project align with what I’m doing in my education courses, considering this is essentially planning a lesson. Working with kids, and planning fun things because kids can be easily bored, is exactly what I want to do, so the extra experience is always much appreciated.”
The strength of Lycoming College’s psychology program lies in the vast breadth of opportunities provided to students. Its wide variety of coursework allows students to explore their specific interests in the field, and its empirically-based structure exposes students to and prepares them for research opportunities from their first introductory class. More information on Lycoming’s psychology major can be found here: https://www.lycoming.edu/psychology/.