The rise of the internet age has enabled us to live a life at a faster pace. Because of the freedom the web provides, millions of people can communicate at the same time. Never before in human history has there been a time like this. What’s most intriguing about this revolution is that children and teens are leading the way. The younger section of society comprised of children, pre-teens and teens accounts for a very large portion of the internet populace. The same group also accounts for the most rapid increase in internet use. And when this group stays online, the most common thing they do is join social networking sites. In fact, for an average American teen, social networking is basically the same as social media – it absolutely defines how and where teens get to communicate and socialize with other people. But the ongoing popularity (or maybe dependence) on the internet and social networking carries not only positive but also negative effects. First, we have to consider that the web is responsible for making media, society, and our lives in general work faster. A fast paced society has its ups and downs and the way it affects children and teens is two-fold – on one hand, social media makes life easier and more convenient, but it also puts traditional relationships in a new and sometimes distorted light. For instance, children and teens are supposed to learn how to build relationships with other people around the neighborhood or in school. Traditionally, they have been taught by their parents, religious ministers, guidance counselors, and teachers to respect authority and follow what older people say. Furthermore, they are also taught to earn friends by means of showing respect and practicing good manners. Our point here is that building quality relationships with people takes time and effort. But because of social networking, real and hard-earned relationships are now replaced with online relationships. Many youths are leaning towards communicating with other people through social media rather than going out in person and making friends with neighbors. What this means is that they are fond of making life faster. But the question is: is this good for them?
Let us find out…
Social Networking/Media Effects: Positive
- Better information and knowledge access – people who have a childhood and adolescent life minus the internet are faced with the difficulty of getting access to vital information and knowledge they need for education. This means that when you need to do research on something, you have to spend tons of effort and go miles in order to find books, periodicals, and other paper sources just to get started. Additionally, you may also need to conduct interviews and surveys so as to get more information about a certain issue you’re tackling.
But with the birth of the internet, every single bit of information or knowledge a child or teen needs to learn is compiled in a very large library called the World Wide Web. With social networking, research is a thousand times easier and getting the information you want may be done in minutes.
- Interactive involvement – Long ago, most children and teens were limited to joining community, neighborhood, and school groups. They were not that exposed to events and happenings outside their community. But with social networking and the internet in general, correspondence to virtually anyone from anywhere is possible. Interactive involvement even reaches as far putting children and teens under the spotlight for discussing and participating in online and social networking forums for issues that concern them.
- Improved world awareness – It is quite usual to think that children and teens are not that keen to knowing issues that shape the world. Politics, social problems, population, health, and the economy are things that the younger populace lacks interest in. But because of social networking, they have no choice but to face the world‘s problems and share their opinions. The good thing about this is that their voices are given weight in issues where adults are traditionally the prominent protagonists.
Social Networking/Media Effects: Negative
- Encourages exploitation and abuse – We all know that social networking is a product of technology and technology brings new kinds of crime. While many people use it for wholesome, ethical, and healthy reasons, there are also many who utilize it to abuse and exploit others, particularly children and teens. The convenience brought by the web has led criminals to understand that carrying out their trade is much easier and less risky online. The use of fake identities is one advantage these people have in order to be more confident in exploiting and abusing children.
- Behavioral tendencies and consequences – The impact of social media and social networking sites on the behavior of children and teens is very disturbing. We’re not saying that social media is bad in and of itself. The misuse of such technology is what makes it bad. For instance, there is the tendency to conform to what’s popular without considering whether it’s right or wrong – as often seen in cases of cyberbullying. It’s much easier for young people to verbally abuse each other online than it is face to face.
- Health conditions – Social media is responsible for revolutionizing traditional communication. However, research has shown that social networking sites can be very addictive. People who use social networking sites for their daily communication are hooked to a point that they neglect health responsibilities, especially their diet. The addictive nature of social media leads to eating disorders, obesity, heart problems, sleep disorders, and other pertinent health issues. Additionally, constant exposure to the internet because of social networking addiction prevents a child or teen from engaging in physical activities and socialization. They become so dependent on it that they start to think making contact with other people outside the social network is not necessary. As such, they become socially and physically stagnant.
In actuality, there are more consequences that we have to face as parents when it comes to social media and networking issues. We have to understand that even though that there’s no stopping our children from using them, it’s possible to maintain control. Trying to force a child to stop using social networking sites will probably not work too well, but a parent that is lovingly and constantly involved in their child’s life will have a much better time keeping watch over their online activity. Through this active monitoring, one can at least limit the negative effects.