In the past ten years, social media has become central in all aspects of modern man’s life. Though all people use social media, the effect of SMPs (Social-Media-platforms) is more pronounced among children below 18 years in the US. Besides the advent of SMPs such as YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Club Penguin and Musical.ly, WhatsApp and Tinder, children can easily access social media via mobile devices such as smartphones and iPods. Consequently, it has become increasingly critical to examine the effects of social media on children.
The unique use of social media among children become an issue of concern to several agencies including AAP (America-Academy-of-Pediatrics) in the US and EPI (Education-Policy-Institute) in the UK. To minimize the adverse effects of social media among children, the APP advises parents to limit, monitor and manage the amount of time that children spend on SMPs. The debate over whether social media use has more positive or negative effects on children is ongoing and is unlikely to be settled any time soon. This paper contends that social media use has adverse effects on children and urgent measures must be undertaken to address the issue. The essay critically examines some of the probable impacts of social media use among children including the misuse of cyberspace, impact on social well-being and cognitive development.
The effects of Social Media On Children In Terms of Misuse of Cyberspace
Cyberbullying among Children
Social media exposes children to cyberbullying. As one of the most common misuses of cyberspace, cyberbullying is the deliberate harassment of children that occurs through constant sharing, posting or sending of mean, harmful or detrimental content on SMPs (Dyer, 2018). Cyberbullies often use private information including videos, photos, and memes to cause embarrassment, particularly among tweens and teens. The APP contends that social media bullying is linked with high suicide attempts among children (Teen safe, 2016). With 39% of teens in the US sending explicit photos, Hastings (2009) states that an American teen committed suicide after school mates accessed the person’s nude pictures on SMPs. Persons below 18 years are still young, impressionable and highly sensitive, hence, social media bullying causes unprecedented humiliation and harm on children.
Despite the prevalence of cyberbullying, social media can be used to promote ethical behavior among children. Youngsters can use SMPs to demonstrate care and show interest in others by sharing posts and tweets that cultivate good behavior including honesty and gratitude (Chapin, 2016). In additions, SMPs are inundated with role models who can shape the broader perception of children on social issues including gender roles. Being a cyber-mentor also can help others when dealing with cyberbullies (Chapin, 2016). Through cyber-mentorship, children can use SMPs to post positive comments to discourage and offset the negativity perpetuated by cyber bullies. Regardless, social media is often associated with detrimental than positive use.
Social Media and Online Sex Predators
Evidence also points to social media exposing children to sexual predators. Notably, as children increase networks of friends they are likely to link up with total strangers (Reeves, 2016). Sexual predators, who populate SMPs and pretend to kids gain trust among children through grooming and manipulation rather than violence (YPAD, 2017). To coerce children to share explicit photos, t the predators entice children by highlighting attributes such as beauty and academic performance in school. Out of the 500,000 predators online, 73 % are male, which makes girls more vulnerable in comparison to boys (YPAD, 2017). The FBI points out that a 26-year-old lady from Miami has been grooming around 800 youngsters including a 12-year-old boy who was blackmailed to send nude photos (Reeves, 2016). Ultimately, through sextortion, which is a form of online intimidation, predators force children to provide more explicit images (YPAD, 2017). In turn, the predators use images to obtain more photos, exploit children sexually and at times force victims to provide money. Online sex predators use tactics that difficult to detect, but which make children highly vulnerable to the vice.
Lack of awareness of privacy policies rather the proliferation of online sexual predators must be the primary concern of parents and other stakeholders. Despite being young and highly sensitive, most tweens and teens are vulnerable to cyberbullies and sex predators because they are not aware of privacy policies on such platforms (Reeves, 2016). Therefore, instead of emphasizing on the adverse effects of the vice, most parents, for example, must focus on creating awareness among children. Reeves (2016) states that in order to improve on public policies and childcare, parents and guardians must focus on understanding the platforms that minors use, how such channels are being used and the amount of time being spent on the tools. As a result, instead of providing short-term solutions by limiting social media use among children, parents and other stakeholders will facilitate the creation of long-term solutions that will be in line with a balanced use of social media among children.
Social Media and Well-being of Children
Most people link social media with adverse effects on children’s mental health. High use of social media is one of the factors causing mental problems among youngsters. Common Sense (2017) notes that most children use mobile devices, which are stored in bedrooms before bedtime and overnight. Besides sleeping late, constant notification round the clock and the urge to contribute and the fear of being left out results in sleep disturbance as children seek to be online 24/7 (Woods & Scott, 2016). Thus, social media causes mental health problems such as stress, depression and burn out by disrupting the sleeping patterns of youngsters. Furthermore, social media causes health problems by exposing youngsters to the increased pressure of self-comparison (Woods & Scott, 2016). Children, particularly girls, who are unable to meet the standards set by peers including posting photos while wearing trending clothes are likely to suffer from depression.
On the conserve, social media promotes the well-being of vulnerable children. For instance, Swist, Collin, McCormack &Third (2015)state that polling data obtained on social media through likes, comments and shares can boost the morale and confidence of children with low self-esteem, and thus promote mental health. Getting more likes and positive comments create an impression of acceptance among peers, thereby boosting the morale and confidence of children suffering from low self-esteem.
Social Media promotes anti-social behavior by encouraging isolation among children. Most children are on the news feeds regularly, probably after every 10 seconds, thus restricting the time that minors spend in-person interaction. Face-to-face interaction promotes the mental, physical, moral and spiritual development of children (Drago, 2015). For instance, children that interact in-person frequently are more likely to enhance talking skills, empathize with others and learn to respond to actual situations in real time. However, the increased use of social media makes it difficult for children to develop such attributes because most of the communication is virtual(Drago, 2015).
Rather than promote isolation, social media can enable children to socialize and maintain a long-term relationship with others. Notably, through social media youngsters can keep in touch with persons they interact with face-to-face (Lenhart et al., 2015). Moreover, introverts who find it difficult to interact with others in-person can use SMPs to communicate with peers (Lenhart et al., 2015). Furthermore, social media can promote social inclusivity among children through the creation of online communities involving people suffering from racial and sexual orientation discrimination.
Social Media and Cognitive Development of Children
Social media is linked to poor academic performance among children. The age between 13 and 18 years is critical in the life of each child because it facilitates social development through the acquisition of knowledge and skills in schools (Bryant, 2018). Social media tends to promote activities that discourage rather than encourage the academic well-being of children (Bryant, 2018). Notably, tweens and teens spend more time on social media downloading and streaming music, which is likely to distract from academic activities such as finishing assignments on time (Common Sense, 2017). Therefore, some scholars link frequent use of SMPs with spending less time studying, which in turn results in poor performance in schools. Thus, social media distracts children from academic activities including finishing assignments on time.
Based on some scholars underperforming students tend to spend more time on SMPs, hence, the constant link between low grades and use of social media among children. Other academicians contend that the relationship between low marks and spending much time on social media cannot be proven scientifically (Alfaki, 2018). In fact, despite the probable misuse of social media, the tool can be used to provide learning opportunities for children and enhance teaching. Through social media, tutors can promote authentic assessments, which are more effective in comparison to conventional tests (Alfaki, 2018). For instance, to encourage more students to pursue STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) by broadcasting interesting lab findings on platforms such as Facebook Live. Therefore, rather than ban, the use of social media, parents, and teachers must encourage positive use of SMPs among children.
Based on the SLT (Social-Learning-Theory), people or things around children are the main determinants of the learning that children receive in early life. Thus, the behavior of children is modelled based on observations from home or persons esteemed highly. The Internet through unfettered SMPs such as Facebook Live is providing children with content on real-life violence (Meredith & Gansner, 2019). In turn, from the SLT, children are likely to copycat and practice such brutality in real life. Moreover, children are constantly exposed to violent video games such as Bulletstorm on SMPs. As a result, children that invest much time on such platforms are more likely to be aggressive and violent in comparison to youngsters that spend time playing video games that are less violent. However, Meredith and Gansner (2019) state that impulsivity, substance use, and mood disorders are the leading cause of violence among children and social media only precipitates aggressive behavior. With the increase of gun violence in the US, it is critical to scientifically determine the relationship between violent behavior and social media use among children.
positive effects on children. The research has examined both effects in terms of cyberspace misuse, social well-being, and development of cognitive behavior. Despite having several benefits, the adverse effects of social media on children seem to more prevalent and create long-lasting results. Though the debate on the impact of social media on children is still ongoing, it is clear that all stakeholders must unite to address the challenges associated with SMPs.
Alfaki, I. M. (2018). Towards a digital world: using social networks to promote learner’s language.
Bryant, A. (2018). The Effect of Social Media on the Physical, Social Emotional, and Cognitive Development of Adolescents.
Chapin, J. (2016). Adolescents and cyberbullying: The precaution adoption process model. Education and information technologies, 21(4), 719-728.
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Reeves, J. (2016). More sexual predators using social media to lure children, FBI says. Retrieved from https://www.cbs17.com/news/more-sexual-predators-using-social-media-to-lure-children-fbi-says_20180327091622773/1082780184
Swist, T., Collin, P., McCormack, J., & Third, A. (2015). Social media and the wellbeing of children and young people: A literature review.
Teen safe. (2016). Suicide Now the Second Leading Cause of Death For Teens; Is Social Media to Blame? – TeenSafe. Retrieved from https://www.teensafe.com/blog/suicide-now-second-leading-cause-death-teens-social-media-blame/
Woods, H. C., & Scott, H. (2016). # Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Journal of adolescence, 51, 41-49.
YPAD (Youth-Protection-Advocates-in-Dance). (2017). Predators Use Social Media To Target Children + Infographic – YPAD. Retrieved from https://www.ypad4change.org/predators-use-social-media-to-target-children-infographic/
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