Social Media has become a fast growing influence on peoples lives in recent years, in particular our youth. Were talking here about people in their early twenty’s right down to ages of 7 and 8. There are both positive and negative effects/aspects to this rise in social media use. We’ll deal with the negatives first of all and then move on to the positives and how to make the most of them. This blog is targeted for young people or students who have an interest in this area and also parents interested in looking at the positives and negatives social media has on their children.
Lack of Physical Social Life
By this I mean a lack of a social life in the outside world, not just through a computer screen. You may say you have a great social life by having lots of friends on media sites like Facebook, lots of followers on twitter and by having regular conversations with people online. But do you really? Its okay to have a big social life online but eventually it could become such a big part of your life that you forget what its like to have a social life outside of these social media sites. It is such a necessity to have a good social life with your friends. This could be just going down to play a game of soccer or hurling, going to the cinema, or going out for a few drinks if you are older. People who become over dependent on social media being their only social life could start to become socially awkward when you meet them in person. I’m sure we all can think of one or two people we know that are easy to talk to on Facebook for example but when it comes to talking to them in person, or getting them to do activities with you, its just impossible. It’s important to moderate how much time you spend using social media, and set aside enough time for your friends and outside social life.
Exposure to unsuitable material
This goes in particular to parents of young kids and teenagers. It is so easy to come across some form of unsuitable material on social media sites etc. due to inadequate security and precautions being taken. Social Media sites are becoming filled with more and more inappropriate, even gruesome or violent, pictures, videos or other links. This isn’t a problem for older users who know to just skip through it and avoid it, but as we know there are more and more young teens and children getting access to these sites. If they come across this unsuitable material they just don’t know any better than to click into them, as any curious youngster would do. Exposure of this material could have terrible effects on the child. Parents need to be made aware of what their children can be exposed to and take the necessary precautions to avoid this material being leaked to their children.
On average, teenagers spend five hours a day online. You may say well that’s still nineteen hours a day that they don’t spend online. But think about it, that’s 35 hours a week spend on social media networks etc. With those numbers just increasing every year, childhood obesity and other health risks are going to become, or already are major issues. Young people need to be made aware of these concerns and encouraged to take part in more outdoor activities and sports. Every child or teenager should be involved in at least one sport or form of outdoor activity. Parents need to restrict the amount of time their children are allowed to spend on social media and should be encouraged to wait as long as possible before giving their children smartphones or laptops. If a child of 8 or 9 is given a smartphone or laptop they can easily get hooked on it and lose all interest in going out to play or to take part in sport, and this is where obesity and health risks start to occur. Children and teenagers should not be allowed 5 hours a day online in my opinion, as this means less time spend doing physical activity.
Cyber bullying is one of the primary negative effects of social media. It is so easy for a vulnerable person to be targeted on these social media, where the bully is safe behind their own screen. Cyber bullying could be simply name calling online, threatening someone online, or openly embarrassing someone on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. The victim of this cyber bullying could lose all their self confidence, be scared to use social media due to the bullying, or could be left feeling vulnerable or scared outside of these sites, such as in school or around their peers. Cyber bullying can also lead onto physical bullying. Help needs to be provided for people affected by cyber bullying, and something needs to be done to keep these cyber bullies away from social media sites.
The Lighter Side of Life
Its not all bleak, there are also positive effects of social media to look at!
Social Media can be used for educational purposes in schools or colleges. In many college courses, social media sites such as twitter are used to share information/links between students and lecturers. This can sometimes be a much easier way to learn than by through emails or college sites like Blackboard, because the students and lecturers/teachers are interacting with each other a lot more. Feedback and replies can be provided much easier using these social media sites. Groups or pages can be found all over social media sites that are there to provide educational assistance to students.
Maintaining communication with friends and family
As we grow older we can start to grow apart from childhood friends or relatives. We may move away from our hometown to go to college or to work, and keeping contact with friends and family can be difficult. Social Media is a good way to stay connected to these friends and family. Sites such as Facebook, and new smartphone apps such as Snapchat, Skype and Viber are excellent ways to stay connected to friends and family, no matter how far away you are. Without social media, it would be a lot harder to talk to a friend or family member, without it costing quite a bit. Thanks to social media it is now virtually free and very easy to get in touch with anybody you want.
Knowing about news and current events
Social Media is also a very good way of tracking news stories and keeping up to date with todays current events. Links are always being shared on social media sites, and it is highly important that young people are aware of and are encouraged to become interested in current events and world news. It helps young people to have an open mind and not just to be interested in their own little circle.
In conclusion, the positives of social media can be reaped, and the negatives kept to a minimum, so long as it is used in moderation and in a controlled environment, where the positive sides are encouraged, and the negatives are pushed out as much as possible by parents and teachers. We hope you had a good read and any feedback is more than welcome. A few links which are shared below may be of interest as they relate to this topic and address similar issues to this blog.
–> Youtube video “What is Social Media Really Doing to Society?” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ij6YUpozGQ
Blog by Shane Martino Daly and Andrew McGinley