The Influence Of Social Media On Children And Adolescents

In today’s times, one could live their entire life by sitting on the couch, with learning online, having “friends” online, and having their medical needs done with a search.According to Dr. Shock, Teens “live in social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Second Life gathering friends; they text more than they talk on the phone, and they Twitter the night away often sleeping with their cell phones vibrating by their sides”. The influence of social media is a hot topic in parenting, education, medical, and adolescent circles. It is a debate on whether social media is a positive influence on our children and adolescents or a negative influence on them. However, nowadays when social media is already used by a majority of people, resolutions to the issue have to be neutral since there really is no way to get rid of it completely. Although social media does have positive and negative aspects, it is important to be educated to prevent the bad, and let social media be used as a tool for life rather than a catastrophe.

Social media has many harmful impacts on children and adolescents and can cause dangerous consequences. A destructive form of social media use is cyberbullying. Many youngsters lose their filter while online, they say things they normally would not in person. “The anonymity afforded online can bring out dark impulses that might otherwise be suppressed”(Jung). This can be very dangerous since people say hurtful and mean things about one another, leaving the victim with possible “psychological outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and tragically, suicide” (O'Keefe).

The online world in adolescent eyes can be thought of as too intense and therefore trigger depression and other mental health issues. A new form of depression called ‘Facebook depression’: which “develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression” (O'Keefe). The risks of facebook depression are social isolation and it can also lead to teenagers turning to risky sites for help. These sites or social media accounts can promote substance abuse and inappropriate behaviors, leading to more problems. Social media can give many teens anxiety over if someone will post a picture of them where they look bad or something embarrassing. Seeing photos of friends together can make one feel left out and depressed. Pictures posted can make some feel self-conscious about how they look and can lead to an eating disorder. Pictures and words shared online can pose a major threat to children and adolescents mental health.

Social media also carries the danger of blackmail and identity fraud. People steal photos from others accounts and use them as their own. There are many stories on the internet of people who have found accounts under a different name, but with all their pictures. The ability to create multiple profiles and hide details and photos of oneself also enables blackmail to be easier, with only an IP address to track. Public information could also help hackers hack into your accounts. Social media and public profiles can be a big danger.

Lack of privacy on social media profiles can be a major threat to social networks. Not only can it lead to identity fraud but it can also ruin the future of a child or adolescent. “What goes online, stays online”. Therefore, even if something was posted and taken down, it could still be out there somewhere. Inappropriate photos or photos of one partying, etc. could be found later in life and give the person a bad reputation. Colleges and jobs may find these pictures and reject you because of it. Children, and especially teenagers, need to be careful what they post or are tagged in since you never know where it will end up. Everything is added to your digital footprint and could be traced back to you later in the future.

One of the biggest dangers of social media is the ability to chat with strangers and be “friends” with people we may not truly know. “According to Cornell University's Steven Strogatz, social media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through social media“(Jung). This causes young people to lose social skills of distinguishing different types of relationships and could cause one to enter a dangerous one. A teen could meet someone online and think they are truly friends, but then give away information and be used by a stranger. The problem of meeting strangers online is not just a problem on social networks with teens such as facebook, snapchat, etc., but also for children on gaming networks that allow players to chat and interact with one another such as club penguin. It is dangerous for parents to leave their young children chatting with a complete stranger since “their lack of maturity and life experience can quickly get them into trouble with these new social venues”(AAP).

Another huge danger of social media and instant messaging is sexting and exposure to sexual content. “20% of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photographs or videos of themselves”(O'Keefe). Sexting is dangerous to adolescents for many reasons including legal consequences, mental health consequences, and the ability to hurt one's future. Major mistakes teens make is not just sending the photo, but not thinking about what comes next. It could be shared online and cause embarrassment, depression, possibly suicide, and can ruin opportunities in the future. These are major problems with social networks with private messaging specifically snapchat and messaging applications. Another issue with social media sites and profiles is the access of pornography and inappropriate sexual content. “Ninety-three percent of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to online pornography during adolescence”(Sabina). Although some viewed it involuntarily, it has left many shocked, embarrassed, and possibly scarred. It can leave young people with false impressions of relationships and cause aggression and harm. “Early exposure to sexual content in the media may have a profound impact on children’s values, attitudes and behaviors toward sex and relationships” (Ross).

When parents say “they grow up so fast” about their children, nowadays that can be taken very literally because of the exposure many children have at a young age to sexual content and inappropriate behavior. “Just as we read specific books and show educational movies to our children in hopes that they learn lessons from the characters, the media provides a type of sex education to young people” (Ross). There are many risks and consequences to the early exposure of children to these topics. Studies show that adolescents who watch and hear about drinking, drugs, and sex, are more likely to partake in those events, and even earlier than others. The exposure to sex portrayed online in media can lead to earlier sex when they are not yet emotionally, socially or intellectually ready. Since media in some ways is a “sex education”, it could be a false education and not teach kids the risks of sex, leading to teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. By following these types of accounts and being exposed to pornography and violent sexual content, it can lead to higher risk of sexual violence,and being a victim or cause of rape.

An issue that causes many of the younger children, under thirteen, to be affected by social media risks is the fact that they are on social media in the first place. Parents have been using social media and technology as a way to bribe children to be quiet or do their chores, even exposing it to their children at a very young age. “For example, in 1970, children began to regularly watch TV at 4 years of age, whereas today, children begin interacting with digital media at 4 months of age” (Reid). Many are not mature yet and lack the responsibility and understanding to be on social media. Sites usually have a minimum age requirement of 13 years old for a reason. Unfortunately, many parents allow it anyway which send the wrong messages to children. They are showing that lying is ok by letting their children lie about their age to sign up, and they show that online safety is not so important. This leads to children being exposed at younger ages and becoming more at risk online because of their lack of maturity.

Addiction is a major problem in the world of children and adolescents. They are not only addicted to phones but to social media and gaming as well. Addiction to social media can be very toxic. By spending too much time online, people could lose social skills, having only their online “friends” and no one in real life. It could also lead to health issues such as obesity, from sitting online all day, and mental health problems, from relying on fake friends, likes, and information. Addiction could also lead to sleep deprivation and failing in school. Spending so much time online could take time away from important priorities such as family, friends, sleep, and studying. Social Media and devices could be positive if used in moderation or at appropriate times, however, overspending time online can lead to a dangerous addiction.

Social media does not just have negative effects on children and adolescents. “Research has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection, and even technical skills” (O'Keefe). If used correctly, social media can be a helpful tool in the lives of many students and youth.

Social Media is a way to educate and enhance our learning. Many students use social media as a way to connect and talk about projects and help each other study. Many young people use social media to learn about news happening in the world, from reading articles posted on Facebook or seeing tweets. Youtube is also a major source of education. People make videos teaching subjects, such as crash course, khan academy, and ted talks. You can also find ‘how to’ videos on facebook to help you build things, cook recipes, and more. Social media is also a place for children and teens to access health information they need and educate themselves.

Social media can also be the place for many of the voiceless to find their voice. It provides a place where children and adolescents can build up their confidence to stand up for what they believe in and come together. Recently there have been many examples of this. Many teens have used social media to express their opinions on gun violence and to share and create walkout events or other campaigns for their schools and communities. Social media can bring teens together and create friendships with people who share similar interests as you. Teenagers have shared information with each other to help others out, people stand up for one another online, and help others find their identity.

Connecting and keeping in touch with friends and family is a great use of social media, along with using it to develop social skills and experience for the real world. Social media can give someone more confidence when speaking and the ability to understand situations contextually. By talking to all different types of people online, it can teach teenagers the freedom and independence of speech for situations later in life. Connecting with other people, professionals, or a crowd with similar ideology, it can create bonds and relationships that can help them out later in life.

Although it does seem that social media has more negative aspects than positive, we live in a world where social media already exists and is used by a vast majority of people. There is no way to get rid of social media or get people to stop using it completely, therefore it is important to learn how to prevent the dangerous, negative influences it can have, and focus on the positive tool social media could be. Parents and their young should together limit what they search and use social media for in order to keep it a positive place for people to grow and learn for the better.

Blogs, doctoral articles, and parenting sites have discussed many ways parents and teens could prevent harmful use of social networking. The first way to prevent harmful matter is by properly educating children and adolescents on a range of topics such as mental health issues, communicating online with strangers, and the healthy amounts of social media or screen time per day. Instead of being “the elephant in the room”, Parents and educators could also have open conversations with children and teens about morals and values or harmful situations that people can get into on the internet. Parents could also set parental controls and online filters on their children's devices or limit the screen time their children have per day. It is important to work on prevention to stop hate and violence, to only spread kindness, safety, and positivity.