This post is brought to you by Felicia Martin.
There is a very thin line between the benefits and risks of using social media. Adults are prone to this, and more so are kids. Social networking has become an integral part of the daily lives of children. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, Snapchat, and the likes, are effective means of interacting with friends, family, and peers.
Two Sides of a Coin
The age-old question is, do the bad effects outweigh the good?
Exposure to Social Media helps children pick up the necessary technical skills. Their brains are able to process data at a faster rate than usual, and who doesn’t love a smart kid. That same exposure, on the other hand, can hinder proper mental development. Kids tend to dwell on these platforms for an unhealthy amount of time and may divert from useful content to harmful and inappropriate ones. For teens, they become so dependent on the approval they get from these mediums that they would do just about anything, even buy 20 Instagram likes from any website that offers such services.
Benefits of Social Media
Negatives tend to overwhelm people and make them overlook the good aspects. Social Media gets blamed for everything these days, but kids are at an age where they do silly things and make mistakes. The sites that they use are only another means of expressing such behavior.
Study groups and school clubs communicate outside of the learning premises through social networks. The days of handwritten letters are gone, and frankly, such methods are no longer feasible given the pace at which today’s society moves. Kids can stay connected to their friends at all times and maintain long term and long-distance relationships. They share their achievements with others not only to get likes, views and followers to connect but strengthen the bond with people they know while meeting new ones. They even have bots on Instagram that do the work so humans don’t have to!
Hundreds of apps can be downloaded and accessed in a matter of minutes. Many of them have themes or concepts that motivate and inspire kids. For instance, with TikTok, you can create impressive videos, and Pinterest promotes photography. Other platforms with large communities of creators include:
With the wealth of knowledge available over the web, they can broaden their perspectives on numerous topics. The vast audience also lets kids communicate and form relationships with people who have similar interests and hobbies.
Freedom of Expression
Social networks are effective platforms for even the most reclusive children.
Status updates usually tell others how one is feeling at a particular moment. They can congratulate their friends on special days with posts and videos.
Comments and likes on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are ways of expression as well. You would often not associate certain posts to a particular user if you met them in real life. Kids and teens show the best parts of themselves on online media platforms.
Children develop informed perspectives on various subject matters.
Social media breeds a sense of empathy in youngsters. They may be more considerate than they would be in person. Such behaviors relieve anxiety and brighten the mood of the recipient. Campaigns and similar events are advertised and promoted through social networks and largely influence the audience. Many teenagers would most likely never watch the news, but they can stay up to date with current events and relevant news around the world through social networking.
Adverse Effects of Social Media
Too much of anything is bad, and social networking is no exception. Psychology Professor Susan J. Paxton says that “social media use, especially frequent use of photo-based social media is damaging to young people’s mental health.”
It plays out like any other substance use disorder. According to the Addiction Center, the overuse of social networking sites is much more problematic in young brains because their social skills are still developing.
Kids may grow to be incapable of communication that is not through a phone or computer screen. These youngsters, left unsupervised, remain for hours on end scrolling through posts, videos, images, and comments while neglecting school activities and other daily routines. With increasing obsession, narcissistic behavior heightens and so does FOMO (fear of missing out).
There are groups that provide support and help fight against bullying and violence. However, cyberbullying is bred over the internet and on social media sites. So, the solution to the problem is the cause of the problem.
Cyberbullying is a cruel manifestation of a child’s body image and lifestyle comparison.
Online media comparison is damaging because the pictures that people paint of themselves are unrealistic. This puts added pressure on the already fragile relationship that many teenagers have with self-esteem. The female gender is more prone to this because girls are naturally self-conscious about their physical appearance.
Being vulnerable, these kids cannot distinguish between what is fake and what is not. Realizing that they could never meet such standards, they end up falling into depression and anxiety, eventually losing what little confidence they had.
In a face-to-face conversation, it would be too intense to say certain things to a fellow individual, but in this case, you do not witness the effects your insults or threats have on the recipient. Social media allows the liberty to take disagreements to extremities that are detrimental to the well-being of others. Victims may react by self-harming or, in the worst case, committing suicide.
● Various findings have associated poor mental health to the extended use of social media. Scrolling or clicking do not require any thought process, so the brain dulls with time. Children grow up oblivious to facial gestures and verbal cues because their only knowledge of emotion is through emojis and emoticons.
● Grammar may as well be non-existent on many platforms because there are no penalties for wrong spellings or errors. Using incorrect grammar may even be considered cool. This mode of writing is gradually making its way to the academic setting, and educators are faced with the task of curbing it.
● Children stay awake past bedtime into the wee hours of the night on their phones, tablets, and laptops. Citing the Sleep Foundation, “school-age children become more interested in TV, computers, media, and the internet, all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruption to their sleep.”
● Offensive, violent, and indecent content can be found in every nook and cranny of networking sites. It would take a miracle for kids to avoid such material altogether. It impacts the mind negatively and can affect anything from academics to personal relationships.
Modern-day children have no idea of life without technology and social media, without getting likes and followers.
Parents are on edge as to when to give their kids a cell phone, and it is even more traumatizing deciding whether to say yes or no to various social platforms. Debates are constantly ongoing concerning its effects on teens and kids. While some aspects favor mental development, others hamper it. Some sound advice would be to talk with your kids about it. Also, keep an eye on their accounts once in a while without being too intrusive. Most of all, remember that they see you as a role model, so leading by a good example is best.