Arguably, the astounding growth and popularity of social media have interestingly attracted a lot of attention from a variety of researchers, globally. More fundamentally, the modern day technological advancement has seen significant advances in social media and its use, primarily by the younger generation. Although almost all ages have come to embrace the numerous changes brought about by social media, children and young adults are the most fanatic users of these sites. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among, others, have become one of the most common activities of todays children and adolescents and as a result, they have substantially impacted childrens lives in negative ways.
To begin with, social media has in the recent past been known to be one of the contributing factors that lower childrens self-confidence (Taylor, 2013). One good example of this s through cyberbullying. In this regard, online bullies have taken to internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter where they hide behind the internet anonymity to carry out their despicable acts. Similarly, children, especially teenager, run the risk of inadvertently disclosing their personal information since on most occasions they are uninformed about the privacy policies of various social media platforms. Thus, whenever the young children ignore or fail to understand these disclaimers and policies, they are exposed to risks of disclosing their personal information. This, in essence, is primarily a serious matter in light of the rising cases of cyber crimes such as identity theft (Jacob Nwannabuike Anioke, 2017). Besides, new studies reveal that social networks can sway children to spend money by running advertisements on the users page. Therefore, this may encourage stealing and theft for children, who do not have money.
Besides, the extensive use of social media by children can be addictive. According to modern day literature, although social networking sites have increasingly made peoples lives easier when it comes to keeping in touch with friends and family, these sites also happen to cause addiction. According to Doward (2017), social media addiction is one of the leading addiction cases today. Notably, many children are at the risk of social media addiction owing to the fact that they spend too much of their time online. More specifically, social networking sites cause addiction in the sense that, they interfere with the childrens perception of reality, attitude towards their daily activities and also towards real-life communication. Besides, although social media addiction can happen to any person, regardless of their age, there is no doubt that children are especially more vulnerable to the risks of its addiction.
Similarly, childrens familiarity with social media platforms could cause them to pick up new behaviors that are not modeled by their parents. For instance, according to a variety of modern-day researchers, social media platforms influence behaviors such as eating disorders and body image, especially on teenagers. According to the Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorder Organization (ANRED), more than 50% of young girls in their teenage years are either on a diet or think that they should be on one (O'Keeffe & Clarke Pearson, 2011). The modern-day media and advertisements encourage thin and petite bodies, which in turn compel the young girls to try and copy these traits. Therefore, in their target to get thin, a majority of young girls who are exposed to a lot of these social media content, put themselves to diet and at times force themselves not to eat for them to get thin.
Additionally, social media negatively impacts children in the sense that, it increases the chances of children to be exposed to the use of drugs. These behaviors are overly orchestrated by online advertisements and information that give enthusiasm to young social media users owing to their entertaining aspect. Although these ads and commercials are considered informative to many, the harm that they bring to the children's young minds is often overlooked. According to modern-day research, when young children are exposed to the use of social media, without their parents intervention, they, therefore, are exposed to adult aimed advertisements such as cigarettes and liquor commercials. According to research studies that investigate health issues, there is a conclusion that the average child between ages eight to 18 spends more than 40 hours using the internet and social media platform, wherein advertising occupies much of the time (Barnes & Laird, 2012). Furthermore, it is a fact according to Gerbner that many of this adult-oriented advertisements are purposely designed to appear appealing to the young childrens minds. Take smoking, for instance, advertisements and online information about cigarettes infuse curiosity to the youth in the same way that movies and videos containing characters who smoke predispose them to do the same. Besides, these online advertisements serve as aspects that lead to problems such as, alcohol abuse, teen smoking, and obesity, among others.
Similarly, social media platforms such as YouTube, expose children to numerous videos such as music videos, which in turn, have a significant behavioral impact on children. More specifically these videos desensitize the young viewers to violence that overly compels teenagers and young adults to approve of premarital sex. According to research done on the impact of social media videos on children, approximately 75% of online videos contain sexually explicit content, and more than half these videos contain acts of violence against the female gender (Liss, 2012). In this regard, women are frequently portrayed in a condescending manner that affects the attitude of those children who spend a majority of their time watching these videos, about sex roles. Also, music lyrics have increasingly become explicit especially concerning sexual content, violence, and drugs. Although no define research links cause and effect relationship between explicit lyrics and adverse behavioral effects, both parents and caregivers should intervene by bringing this up in their anticipatory guidance discussions with children and teenagers.
Children also spend a lot of time surfing the internet and sitting in front of computers, when they are exposed to social media. According to pediatricians, the amount of time spent in front of screens by children can affect their postural development. Besides, an excessive amount of time spent on computers and mobile devices can in most cases compromise the amount of time that the child ought to be physically active. This, in turn, contributes to risks of obesity as well as undeveloped social skills (Richards, Caldwell & Go, 2015). In the same vein, there are also concerns that social media platforms and log exposures of children to the internet may lure them into relationships and pornographic materials. Notably, children who spend too much time online may consider a virtual relationship substitute for a real one. Thus, too much exposure of these content has the probability of having the childrens judgment about various things impaired due to the form of peer pressure that is dominant on social networks.
Conversely, those who support the use of social media by children argue that these social networks promote creativity and a sense of self in teenagers through services such as blogs, real-time interactive games, and Facebook. According to an upcoming research body, children and teenagers who are overly active on social media are usually well-adjusted as compared to their less connected peers (Peppler, 2011). Particularly, a specific study found out that teenage interaction on social networks mimics their actual interaction in their off-line relationships. In a similar vein, Kaveri Subrahmanyam, a psychology professor at California State in Los Angeles, contends that adolescents characterize their online or somewhat virtual friendship into equal and similar hierarchies of closeness as their real-life friendships. In this regard, Professor Subrahmanyan perceives the digital world as "Simply a new and more multidimensional place for children, and especially teenagers to do what teens are always known to do-form their own identities away from their parents.
In conclusion, based on the issues discussed above, it is becoming increasingly evident that social media platforms and the internet have become a crucial part of peoples lives. Although the use of social media has in most cases been associated with positive impacts, it is no doubt that most of its adverse effects, especially on children are overlooked. Similarly, as technology advances, children are pressured to adapt to different lifestyles which may differ with both their parents and their convictions. As a result, a majority of these children suffer the risk of addiction, cyberbullying and identity theft, among others. Thus, although avoiding social media can be challenging, parents and caregivers can monitor the time spent by children on these platforms and also the kind of content that they are exposed to. This, in turn, will help reduce most of the negative impacts of social media.
Barnes, A., & Laird, C. (2012, June 6). The Effects of Social Media on Children. Retrieved from https://sites.ewu.edu/cmst496-stafford/2012/06/06/the-effects-of-social-media-on-children/
Doward, J. (2017, April 9). Revealed: the more time that children chat on social media, the less happy they feel | Society | The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/09/social-networks--children-chat-feel-less-happy-facebook-instagram-whatsapp
Jacob Nwannabuike Anioke. (2017). Media Effects on Childrens Social and Moral Development: A Theological Moral Study in Africa. Journal of Cultural and Religious Studies, 5(3). doi:10.17265/2328-2177/2017.03.001
Liss, H. J. (2012). Telehealth/Internet Services for Children, Adolescents, and Families. Issues in Clinical Child Psychology, 293-303. doi:10.1007/0-387-23864-6_19
O'Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. PEDIATRICS, 127(4), 800-804. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0054
Peppler, K. (2011). Social Media and Creativity. The Routledge International Handbook of Children, Adolescents and Media, 19(1), 13-23. doi:10.4324/9780203366981.ch23
Richards, D., Caldwell, P. H., & Go, H. (2015). Impact of social media on the health of children and young people. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 51(12), 1152-1157. doi:10.1111/jpc.13023
Taylor, J. (2013, May 28). The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good of Children's Use of Social Media | HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/the-bad-the-ugly-and-the_b_3346768.html
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