#sorrynotsorry, Not Always True: Regret Reaps Rewards, Study Finds

SAN DIEGO, CA. - A new study out of the University of San Diego finds that even though younger adults may regret how they have presented themselves on the Internet, those negative experiences motivate them to make better, more responsible choices in the future.

The study, involving 289 college students, found that nearly 80 percent of those who regretted online self-presentation learned a valuable lesson from the experience. Susannah Stern, PhD, the study’s author and Communication Studies professor at the University of San Diego who specializes in children and teen media usage, has found that expressions of #sorrynotsorry do not always adequately represent the mindset of young adults.

Stern notes, “The study illuminates the content, contexts and consequences that have gone unexplored in accounts of young people’s online regret experiences, [shedding] important light on how young people contemplate their own online behaviors.”

Stern’s study demonstrates that many young adults do wish they had done things differently and after regretting a post, are more compelled to be careful, appropriate, and kind in the future.

Although it is commonly assumed that young people regret posts that damage their reputations, the students involved in the study appeared to regret not presenting themselves authentically.

“Once young people post a picture or make remarks online, they must face the image of themselves constructed on the screen. They must also confront the feedback that their family, friends and others offer. Both the feedback and their self-reflection help young people contemplate who they want to be and how they want to be regarded as they move forward in their lives,” Stern says.

Encouraging young people to discuss their regret experiences can help them identify how they might avoid future regrets. Stern advises, “If there is a young adult or teen in your life, take the time to ask what they regret about their posts online, and what they might have done differently.”

Stern hopes that parents and teachers will find the study useful. “If we can use young people’s online regret experiences as opportunities for discussions in educational and family settings,” she says, “we can help them grow as individuals, while also encouraging them to be ethical and kind in families, friendships, and communities.”

The article, “Regretted Online Self-Presentations: U.S. College Students’ Recollections and Reflections” is published in the Journal of Children and Media, 9(2), 2015, available at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/SAruaDK8tfhg4s84gANX/full

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Denise Ward
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