The Role of Social Media’s Influence in the Lives of Children and Young Teens

Nowadays there are few people who do not use social media. Even if a person decides not to register in social media, he or she will do it sooner or later to be aware of what this person’s friends and acquaintances discuss. However, social media sites are rather addictive, and a person should be careful with them. While most adults have more tasks to perform every day and, consequently, less time for entertainment, children and teenagers are at high risk of experiencing harmful effects of social media.
First of all, social media sites have a negative effect on young people’s health condition. It is connected with the fact that children prefer to stay home in front of the screen instead of going out for a walk. On the one hand, their choice is understandable because other children are also not on the playground. Thus, if a child chooses to go out, then it is doubtful that he or she will find friends there. On the other hand, children should be more active to develop in a proper way. They should release extra energy, and it is not so easy to do sitting at a computer. According to the research, “The number of sit-ups 10-year-olds can do declined by 27.1% between 1998 and 2008” (Campbell). These figures are alarming because such weakness will cause many problems with these children’s health in the future.

Due to the social media usage, young people are not only less active physically, but they are also not so active mentally. Firstly, young people spend too much time using social media websites. Secondly, they consider these sites more engaging than homework, so they prefer to postpone performing assignments by spending more time online. As a result, the level of their grades becomes lower, and it may cause more troubles in the future when they apply to a college or university. Moreover, they do not have time for other common activities that help to develop a person’s mind, for example, reading. According to the study, “Among 11-17 year-olds, non-readers grew from 13% to 27% between 2012 and 2013, while occasional readers fell from 45% to 38%” (Dredge). These data prove that young people do not develop intellectually while using social media websites.

The usage of social media influences negatively the way young people speak. They get used to informal language, and lack of reading classical literature makes the situation even worse. Linguists agree, “Young people’s language is becoming saturated by slang, leaving them ill-equipped to communicate in the wider world” (Barford). The problem is that one day these social media’s victims will have to go out and find a job, and it is not clear how interviewers will understand their answers. Probably, it will not be easy for a person who uses too much slang to find a decent job because an interviewer will consider such language as a low attitude. Thus, social media may even spoil the whole life.

Social media’s influence also spreads on a person’s social behavior. According to professor Rosen’s research, “Teens using Facebook have more narcissistic tendencies” (Pilieci). Many teenagers suffer from inferiority complex. Usually people post photos on social networking sites; for some of them it is a kind of a competition. Thus, those teenagers who are self-confident post beautiful photos and receive many nice comments, in other words, they become popular. Others, on the contrary, cannot choose a style in clothes that will fit them or they are simply not photogenic. As a result, these teenagers start to think that some of their friends are better, and it makes them become even less self-confident.

When a person visits a social media site, he or she receives too much unnecessary information. Of course, it is also clear that someone spends too much time sharing this unnecessary information. To find out something useful, a person may look through dozens of posts. Some people may argue that, for example, YouTube contains many educational videos. It does, but it also offers millions of meaningless videos that steal time and give nothing in return. For example, a young person may visit YouTube to watch the video to do homework. However, instead of spending an hour, he or she will spend three hours because there are many new funny videos which this site kindly offers.

To sum up, social media effect negatively on young people. The effects spread on a person’s health, level of education, social behavior, and even life in general. Parents should explain to their children why they should not overuse social media.

Monitoring Children

Parents need to monitor their children’s ever expanding circle of friends, their facebook or myspace accounts, and their cell phones.

There is no doubt that kids growing in this digital age are faced with the problem of the internet predators. There are a myriad of imperceptible threats crawling in the periphery as well as in the midst of our preconceived safe homes. This leads to the question whether parents should be allowed to monitor their children’s internet activities especially when it comes to the use of the social networks. With research showing that many children below the age of 13 are flouting the age requirements to open accounts on those networks, it is important that the parents should monitor what their kids are involved in when they are logged on to these social networks. This is unequivocally the most vulnerable age bracket in the contemporary generation where the internet enjoys ubiquity (Gross, 2009).To help answer this question I conducted a research to try and get what parents as well as kids say about this issue. The research involved kids below the age of 13. The question put to the parents was “would you monitor your child’s use of social network and cell phones?” while the question posed to the children was “how do you feel about parents monitoring your social network and cell phone use?” These questions were put to the participants through a questionnaire (Gross, 2009).

From the research, 80% of the parents who responded agreed that they would allow their children to have an account and a cell phone.

When kids were asked “do you have any social network account?” around 90% gave an affirmative response. When asked “do your parents monitor your account?” 95% of those who have accounts the also gave an affirmative response When asked what parents do with inappropriate post, 45% said they were asked do delete those friends from the friend’s list, while the rest either deleted the message or were asked to contact the friend and ask them to delete the message. These are some of the somewhat spontaneous and honest responses received from the test subjects who happened to be teenage children

When parents were asked whether their children below the age of thirteen had those accounts, 80% said they did or they would allow them to have them. When asked whether they would monitor those accounts almost hundred percent said they would. When asked what they would do with inappropriate post on the children’s account many of the said they would ask their kids to delete them as friends (90%).(Oleary, 2009).

While conducting this research many parents expressed the feeling that they would monitor their children’s social network accounts and cell phones as well as their friends. These sentiments resonated from the children’s perspective this has been confirmed also by (Oleary, 2009).In synopsis, it would be correct to conclude that: from the research conducted, it is clear that both parents and the kids agree that parents should monitor their children’s social network accounts, cell phones, as well as their friends. Oleary and Gross also resonates this view in their articles (Gross, 2009; Oleary, 2009).

Should Parents Limit the Usage of Internet and Social Networks for Teenagers?

The social media networking becomes more and more popular, especially among young people and teenagers. The usage of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace has grown extremely rapidly in the past few years. This phenomenon has a great impact on our society, because it changed our way of communicating and interacting with each other. The current paper will explore the question whether parents should limit the usage of social media for their children and discuss the dangers of excessive usage of social networks by teenagers. This essay will combine several sections, including the discussion of arguments that are presented by various psychological and sociological researches, as well as analysis of the information that I have collected during interviewing two teenagers.

The teenagers are mostly affected by modern social media, and, unfortunately, there is more negative impact, than positive. The most common risks that are associated with usage of media and social networking are negative influences on mental health (including such issues as identity crisis, low self-esteem, FOMO addiction), cyber-bullying, texting/ sexting and exposure to illegal content (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 2).

One of the most dangerous affects that social networks can produce on teenagers is a negative impact on mental health. Teenagers face situations that may cause identity crisis, lower self-esteem and cause FOMO addiction. Teenagers are young individuals who still did not form their life position and moral principles. Their psychological health can be easily affected by minor issues or even words of another person. “In terms of the potential impact on identity formation, Dr. Gallagher believes that young teenagers and preteens are the most vulnerable to negative consequences of social media” (Diaz, Evans, & Gallagher, 2011). In the past few years, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become so viral. These websites grant the users the ability to interact with enormous amount of people. Being able to follow people, share pictures, post comments appealed to many people. It also means that children are constantly exposed to other people, who are able to evaluate and judge them. Many teenage users inform that very often they feel like being on a stage where everybody is looking at them. Such perception of social network usage is true to some extent, because teenagers are extremely concerned about comments/ opinions of other users. For example, comment like “Eww, You are so ugly” can harshly damage person’s self-esteem. In addition, “if a child does something embarrassing and it’s spread via Facebook to everyone in his school, it could potentially have a big impact on his self concept and self esteem” (Diaz, Evans, & Gallagher, 2011). Another thing that can cause an identity crisis is exposure to bad behavior of celebrities and imitation of such behavior by teenagers. Mostly teenagers who are around 12-18 years old are looking for someone to idolize, someone they can look up to. Sadly, social network websites grant an easy access to other people’s profiles. By clicking one button, you can follow anyone and see their daily updates. Some teenagers started to follow celebrities with negative reputation and tried to imitate them and copy their style.

Using social media sites excessively can lead to “an unwanted side effect called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)” (Cheng, 2011). By developing it, people cannot stop checking their social media accounts. The “fear of missing out” on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what person has now. Statistics have shown that a great number of people are suffering FOMO addiction and these people need to check their social media accounts at least once every hour. There is a big difference between being updated and connected with friends, and abusing the usage of social networks. The FOMO addition is quite dangerous because it makes people look constantly for something different and better than what they have at the moment. “…when individuals begin to have feelings of envy, depression, or anxiety when surfing social media sites. Much of the anxiety stems from comparisons people make to others.”People think another situation, another boyfriend, another movie is going to make them a better person, and that’s a myth” (Cheng, 2011). The excessive usage of social networks can have very harmful effects on mental health of teenagers. Teenagers do not have strong life position and life principles, which is why they can be easily affected in the online world of Facebook and Twitter.

Cyber bullying is another issue that many teenagers face in the Internet. Cyber- bullying is a form of bullying using the web. It can be done by making fun of others on websites or harassing a user over an instant messaging. Teenagers who use social media sites tend to post pictures of them when they are drinking, partying and/ or smoking. They are trying to impress their friends and be more “cool”. These pictures can be really harmful and damage person’s reputation. With so many teenagers using the social media sites, it becomes easy to target them and use these pictures against them. “Cyber bullying has been shown to cause higher levels of depression and anxiety for victims than traditional bullying and has also been connected to cases of youth suicide with teens known to engage in reading hurtful comments days before their suicide attempts (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 2).
A great example of cyber-bullying is the story of Amanda Todd. The 15 year old girl who was blackmailed and bullied over an improper picture, she had sent to a guy she fell in love with. The man threatened her and made her do things that she did not want. He had sent the photo to everyone in her school and even posted her photo on Facebook. After she lost her respect and lost all her friends, she committed suicide (Smith Asinyanbi, 2012).

Majority of teens use texting and messaging responsibly, however, this way of communication is very private and can also lead to harmful consequences and abuse. Most of psychologists agree that the biggest danger in excessive messaging and texting is that teenagers do not see the person with whom they communicate. One does not see the reaction of another person, and that is why does not see the consequences of his or her words and actions. It is very dangerous, because children do not learn any social responsibility and may stop thinking about their actions. Another issue that exists in the social networking communication is sexting. It is the same as texting, but during sexting teenagers send and/ or receive nude pictures or sexual messages. According to statistics, 20% of teenagers (13-19 years) have been posting nude or semi nude pictures of themselves. Such way of communication greatly influences teenagers’ perceptions of human interaction in real world (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 3). Such inappropriate ways of using social networks may lead to harassment and threatening person’s dating partner. “Cell phones, instant messaging, and social networking websites are all increasingly being used to monitor, threaten, and harass relationship partners. One in three teens in relationships has been text messaged up to 30 times an hour by a partner to find out where they are, what they are doing, or who they are with” (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 3)

Finally, the last argument that I will mention is that social networks allow teenagers and children to have a full access to various illegal content. Pornography and material that depicts abuse and violence are very dangerous for teenagers. As it was already mentioned, teenagers do not have their solid life principles and are easily affected. Identity crisis can lead teenagers to horrible actions after they have been surfing various violent web sites and porno web pages. “One of the most serious problems related to these sites concerned safety issues and reports of sexual interactions between adults and minors on MySpace” (Greenwood, n.d.). One of the biggest dangers of limitless access to social networks and Internet is that it is almost impossible to track the information that a child is reading.

Despite many negative effects that social networks produce on teenagers, there are still some positive things that Facebook and Twitter bring into life of people. Some people think that it is a great way to stay in touch with others. The busy life makes it even harder to stay in contact with the friends and family. According to Chung (2013), “social media helps strengthen relationships among teens. Many people have friends who they have not seen since school, or who have moved away, and they want to stay connected with”. Such web sites as Facebook help teenagers to save relationships with people who live far away. Social networking connects people from different parts of the world and it helps students to develop their worldview. They can discuss things and share ideas with each other. Some people think that social media provides good opportunities for teenagers to develop their communication skills and be more confident in conversations. It can boost the teens self esteem by letting them to interact with a lot of people around the world (Awesomesauce014, n.d.).

Social media can be a great source of getting a feedback and advice on something. Students can use social media networking as a tool to get a feedback on difficult question or ask to help to come up with an idea for a class. Getting feedbacks from other people can help them to develop the ideas of their own and think more deeply and critically about the subject. “Because of the “sharing” option, social networks give teens a chance to share informative videos and articles with each other. It also helps them reach out to their teachers, coaches, and academic experts easily and collaborate with their peers on school projects” (Ast, 2013). Different people have different opinions. Social networking can help the teens to learn about diversity and get to see others people’s opinion. This can help them to look at things from different angle and be more tolerant of others opinion. Social networking can help the teenagers in their studies. I think one of the biggest benefits of social networking is ability to gain knowledge and easy access to different information recourses.

In the process of researching the topic of effects of social networking on teenagers, I have interviewed two people. Both of them are teenagers. Their responses to my questions were rather different. The first interviewee agreed that social media has a bad effect on the teenagers and it its usage should be limited. “Social media can be addictive and a lot of teenagers are wasting their time surfing the social media sites instead of doing something useful, like studying”, said the interviewee. He also mentioned that parents tend to give their teenagers full access to the social media sites and that is why they become addicted. He also explained “Parents should be responsible and they should keep an eye on what their teenagers posting/ sharing on the social media sites”. A lot of parents do not have any idea about what their children are doing on these sites and that is the problem. Hundreds of teenagers are being bullied over the internet everyday but no one is doing anything. “If the parents were aware of this, they could help their teenagers to get through this” said the interviewee. However, my second interviewee disagreed. He thinks that social media sites have very positive influence. He thinks that social media can be beneficial and help the teens to become more confident in interacting with people. “Teenagers who use social media a lot tend to show great confidence and understanding”, he said. Also he believes that the social media can increase person’s knowledge. He explains, “Teenagers, today, can have access to many social sites. They can read different opinions and arguments, what helps to build up their knowledge”. Despite the fact, that two interviewees had different opinions about social networks, they agreed that teenagers should be educated about the usages of social media. Both suggested that we can increase their awareness level by giving presentations in schools about the impact of social media and how it can affect them in many ways.

Although social media sites are a good way to stay in touch with people, at the same time they are very addictive. Websites such as Facebook are designed in a way that makes people spend hours and hours exploring them. The features that these websites have are appealing to many teenagers. People can play many games on Facebook and compete with their friends. The teenagers are being targeted by the social media sites. It is true that social networks have some benefits like keeping in touch with old friends and people who are far away, also having access to academic resources and ability to receive feedback from peers and professors. However, these positive effects cannot overcome the dangers of excessive usage of social networks. Cyber bullying, mental health issues, texting/sexting and exposure to illegal content are very negative outcomes that can permanently break child’s life. I have interviewed two people for this research, both seem to have different approaches to this question, but they still agreed that teenagers should be educated on how to use social networks. It is necessary for parents to keep an eye on their children’s activity online, and of course limit the usage of Internet to avoid damaging consequences and tragic situations.

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