May 1st, 2020
Cassette tapes and newspapers are a thing of the past. Those who were born into the 21st century no longer recognise these communication tools, and have quickly and inevitably adapted to modern technology, a bittersweet consequence of technological advancements that have now shaped our culture and social norms. Undeniably, these media channels (e.g. computer, smartphone, tablet) have assisted students and teachers in producing convenient and streamlined lessons especially during a time where individuals are living in isolation. The need for the Internet has never been so desperate, as educational material and news are updated within every household. And this is also where it draws alarm. With the access of Internet, adults forget that individuals are entering a realm where anything and everything is accessible.
The most popular social media platforms that draws concern is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the most recently trending mobile application Tiktok. As much as there are benefits to allowing children these kinds of luxuries, there is growing concern from experts and health organisations.
Advantages of Social Media
1. Online literacy:
The Internet was introduced in the 80’s and hasn’t ceased to prove its power over offline media, thus if the future is online then our children need to be familiar with how it operates. Especially with a growing number of schools adopting tablets to share school material, it is necessary for children to take the time to experiment with these tools. These proficiencies and knowledge are also valuable and will be expected to be a second nature skill by future employers.
2. Collaboration and communication:
With social media known for its flair for high engagement, students subconsciously learn how to converse, debate and exchange ideas over educational and recreational content through team projects.
3. Networking and exposure:
For young adults, some platforms like Facebook encourage relationship building and the building of social networks that will later contribute to career bridges. Further, professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn are designed specifically for businesses and professionals.
Students may be uncomfortable in person when participating in class but behind the safety of a screen they can practise soft skills like working in groups and gaining the confidence to speak up. Social media can also provide a richer and interactive experience for young learners who struggle with retention e.g. videos and tutorials.
Disadvantages of Social Media
1. Inappropriate content:
Unfortunately, social media has also garnered a reputation for its toxic environment. Despite the brand’s efforts to filter content, there are still frequent cases of aggressive, violent and sexual content affecting those especially from the 9-18 age gap. This kind of information can easily influence young minds that have yet to comprehend ethics, leading to irrational behavior and the jeopardy of their future reputation.
It doesn’t stop with inappropriate content, there are also inappropriate people, strangers disguised as friends who pose a threat to the safety of children who don’t know better. Stalkers have a way of knowing children’s every move, literally down to their physical movement through locational services and maps that they can hack into – this is particularly alarming as Australia is one of the highest rated countries for missing people over the years. Catfishing stories also reveal that young individuals also fake their identity without harmless intentions, but it reveals the alter ego they create as a means of escaping reality – characteristic of those that suffer from self esteem and trust issues or self isolate.
Furthermore, with no measures enforcing behavior on the World Wide Web, bullies can freely attack others without consequence; it is much easier to be cruel. Surveys conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health for instance found that social media contributed to increased feelings of depression, anxiety and poor body image. Psychologists from a variety of fields have also mentioned how it is especially prevalent with girls who are socialised to be more aware of themselves and compare with others to develop identities making them more vulnerable to online drama.
4. Personal details:
Social media platforms will always request for information on the user profile beforehand. We often forget that these platforms are also a business, and that for them to maintain and keep the platform running for free there needs to be energy and funds. One of their fund funnels is targeted marketing and advertising, something that most people forget because they have become so accustomed and numb to it. The fundamental of marketing is it identifies a problem that the viewer has (in this case, children) and offer a
solution with their product or service (clothes, food, games). On a deeper level, this adds fuel to the feeling of lack of fulfillment, and the need for material things and this unhealthy cycle continues into adulthood. Data obtained can also be sold to other organisations that can take advantage of this information in order to further target audiences for financial gain.
These points discussed cover a broad spectrum of the effects social media has. Ever since its arrival, it has been a hot topic and is continuously a subject of debate due to its responsibility for abnormal behavior in children and its undeniable effects on social interactions. As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to notice consumption time and the content they are engaged in,
and whether it is inspired through real interest or nervous habit. Experts encourage both parents and their children to maintain healthy habits where time is allocated for checking and playing with phones, and more meaningful conversations should be made face to face where individuals are completely disconnected from the media, thus healthy self esteem can be achieved – rather than chasing ‘likes’ and attention where there is no value. Communication is key, fostering an environment where children can openly
speak about their actions and interests give us insight on where they are putting their energy.