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Social Media – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Parent’s Guide Part II

Social Media – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Parent’s Guide Part II

This Parent’s Guide covers the benefits and risks of social media for children and teens. Part III will review specific information and helpful hints related to the apps covered in Part I.

Benefits of social media

There are positives about participating in social networks. Children and teens that are shy may feel more empowered to connect initially from behind their screens. Social networks can also connect people who have similarities but are geographically separated, such as fans of a musical group or people with a rare disease.

Social media is a fair playing field in which all people can share their music, art, writing, ideas, and engage in dynamic dialogs on any number of issues. Charities can draw awareness to their causes, blogs and podcasts can educate, inform, and enlighten, and everyone has access to the same information regardless of age, sex, economic status, or location. If you have access to the Internet, it’s all there.

In many ways, social media has been positive. Children and teens share that social media helps them maintain and strengthen relationship because they can connect easily with their friends. They also say it helps them share things about themselves that they may find too uncomfortable to do face-to-face; social media gives them privacy to think about what they want to say, edit what they want to share, and then present what they choose with the world.

Risks of social media

However, there are risks. The risks of social media to children and teens are much greater than most parents realize. Children and teens are at risk on social media by external factors such as media advertisers, potential online predators, and cyberbullying. Additionally, there are internal threats that emerge from the unique developmental stage of the child combining with the hyper-glamorized, sterilized versions of life they see on social media, the permanence of the information that is posted online, and the pressure to live life in such a public way.

Cyberbullying

Bullying has changed with social media. Aggressions become permanent. When someone is being bullied, a spectator or the aggressor can record the event, upload it and share it across multiple platforms. An unlimited number of viewers can then watch and comment on the event. This creates a cascade of humiliation, meanness, and continued aggression without any accountability. Of course this is devastating to the victim and makes them relive the event multiple times without hope of it ending.

Additionally, cyberbullying can be covert. Harassing, hurtful, or critical comments, lies or rumors can be sent out publicly across social media communities without the victim knowing. Often times victims are surprised when they find out and are unsure what to do when the message has already spread without any way to pull it back or defend themself. Similarly, the aggressor does not see the consequences of his or her actions on the victim and can grow more outlandish in future attacks.

Social media depression

Some children and teens develop symptoms of depression after spending too much time on social media. This depression is linked to feeling unpopular because they do not get enough “likes” or have enough “followers,” and begin to compare real life to the beautiful, glossy images that others share on social media. It is understandable because children look to their peers for confirmation and reaffirmation of who they are and adolescents are searching to figure out what they want in life and how they fit in this world. Having so much information available can make kids and teens feel like they measure up short in comparison to others.

Digital footprint

Many children and teens cannot comprehend the permanent mark they leave in the digital world with their social media pages, online shopping, video watching, and general cruising of the Internet. Most webpages use Cookies to track user preference and then target marketing to the viewer. Children and teens may unintentionally draw attention from commercial users that may introduce products or services that are inappropriate.

Additionally, the postings on social media pages may seem like good fun in the moment but may later have consequences on school or employment opportunities. Universities, scholarship programs, and employers frequently Google applicants to get a better feel of who they are. Embarrassing, compromising, or unflattering social profiles may have a negative influence in the future.

Sexting

Sexting is a common social media activity and is too large a topic for this post. However, if you are interested in learning more about sexting, you can read my post “Is sexing really harmful to teens?”.

Overall, social media is neither positive or negative. It depends on its intent and use. Part III will present information about the most commonly used apps, presented in Part I and what parents can do to educate their child or teen about safe use.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

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