By Ifeoma Nzemecha
In the last few years, we have seen an explosion of social media and networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace etc.; the children cherish this new and high-tech way of remaining connected with friends and meeting new people.
However, it is also important for parents to keep themselves aware of some of the negative effects of these sites, and how to protect their children. Here, we are listing the top insidious effects that social media may have on children. Some of this information is taken from a recent study conducted by researchers at University of Rome. They conducted a survey of 50,000 people to know about the effects of social media on their lives. It is apparent from the results that overall the social media has a negative effect on the social well-being of an individual.
1. Hate Speech
The kids using Facebook or other social media sites are at a greater risk of suffering from the hate speech. This problem can be more serious for the girls and the children belonging to the minorities and communities that are discriminated against. In online interactions, people with unknown identities may easily indulge in the hate speech or disrespectful behaviour. While during a face to face interaction an individual may think twice before passing any such remark.
2. Mental ill health and Cyber Bullying
One of the often cited dangers of social media is cyber bullying. It occurs when a person uses sites like Facebook to adopt a threatening behavior towards someone during a discussion or sends threatening messages.
Cyber-bullying (the use of electronic communication to bully someone, usually by sending intimidating or threatening messages) is commonplace online, this can cause emotional trauma, and sometimes even leads to suicide. 49.5% of students reported victimization by bullying online and 33.7% admitted to online bullying. A 2012 study found that at least 800,000 minors had been harassed on Facebook. Middle school children who experienced cyber bullying were almost twice as likely to try to kill themselves.
Extensive online engagement is correlated with personality and brain disorders like poor social skills, ADHD, narcissistic tendencies, a need for instant gratification, and addictive behaviors and other emotional distress like depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Children at higher risk for depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders and more prone to feeling isolated and disconnected (especially youth with disabilities).
3. Lack of adequate sleep among kids
Teens are so emotionally invested in social media that a fifth of secondary school pupils will wake up at night and log-on just to make sure they don’t miss out. Perhaps the worst thing about this is that teenagers need more sleep than adults do, so night-time social media use could be detrimental to their health. Research has shown that teenagers need 9.5 hours of sleep each night but on average only get 7.5 hours. A lack of sleep can make teenagers tired, irritable, depressed and more likely to catch colds, flu and gastroenteritis.
4. Identity theft
One of the big problems with social media sites is that the children often do not fully read or understand the privacy settings of their accounts. They are unaware of the risks of disclosing unnecessary personal information. According to a recent survey, 20% of the youth think it to be perfectly safe to post their personal information and photos online. Such kids may easily become victim of the identity theft.
Stalking is defined as the obsessive monitoring or attention towards the victim that may harass him or her. Cyber-stalking can be done in many different ways using social media. Sometimes, an ex-boyfriend or spouse may get angry at the breakup of a relation and use social media to pursue the victim. In another case, a relationship that was developed online gets sour and the personal information shared can be used by the stalker. Or, someone may also fall victim to a random cyber stalking attack.
6. Misinformation with resultant violent Imagery
Spending a lot of time on the social media sites like Facebook can be dangerous, as often as a result of political events around the world, explicit and violent imagery get shown on the discussion threads. Often it is very difficult to moderate such content due to its viral nature. This may have a negative effect on the minds of the children, leading them to have a sadistic and defeatist view of the world.
Social media enables the spread of false rumors and unreliable information: 49.1% of users have read false news on social media and encourages amateur medical advice and self-diagnosis of health problems, which can be dangerous and life-threatening.
7. Sharing too much
Every one of us has its own set of beliefs and ideas that we try to live up to. In our daily life we have an interaction with limited circle of friends. However, sharing such ideas over websites like Facebook may result in dissemination of this information with people that we would not want normal life. This may even prove fatal for our relationship with those people.
8. Online grooming
One of the most distressing aspects of the social media is the growing evidence that paedophiles may use fake accounts on the social media to make friendships with young children and teenagers. They pretend to be of the same age to win children’s confidence. They can then gain vital personal information like their schools and the places where they hang out. They can then use that information to bully and make sexual contact with their victims or exposing them to explicit imagery or content.
9. Negative Emotional Implications:
Psychological experts warn that social media sites can have emotional implications for kids who are already suffering from low self-esteem or confidence. Such children may judge their success by the number of friends they have on the facebook or if they are included in a specific group of people. This may lead to further destruction of their confidence if eventually the kid releases this is not real, Facebook relationships are in most cases ephemeral and superficial.
10. Lack of Interpersonal Skills:
Children spending too much time online may consider a virtual relation substitute for a real one. By spending more time online they often ignore the importance and the appropriate behaviour related to face-to-face contact. Hence, the set of interpersonal skills that are necessary for the success in the real life may not develop properly.
11. Users Vulnerable to Crime:
Social networking sites allow hate groups to recruit and distribute propaganda online. Criminals use social media to commit crimes. Robbers know when you’re away from your home on vacation and stalkers get information about your whereabouts via social media.
Sexual predators find, stalk, and assault victims through social media: Sexing (texting sexual content) can be a big problem. When teens post sexy photos or comments online, it can lead to criminal charges and child pornography. 88% of “private” sexual images posted to social media are stolen and publicly posted on porn sites without the subject’s knowledge.
12. A Detriment to Work and/or School:
Social media enables cheating on school assignments, while grades did improve for light users, the grades of students who are heavy users of social media tend to suffer. One study shows that student users have an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users have an average GPA of 3.82.Social networking sites harm employees’ productivity. 51% of users aged 25-34 checked social media at work. Using social media can harm employment and prospects. Job recruiters check a prospective employee’s social media accounts, and things like profanity, poor spelling or grammar, racism, sexism, poor health, references to alcohol or drugs, and sexual and religious content can all count against you.