Social networking and the risk that it may entail on young people
Facebook at present is being considered the largest and the most accepted social networking site which enables billions to share photographs, and comment and chat with friends, family members and numerous others. We find it to be a useful tool that incalculably helps us stay connected with our friends and family no matter how far apart we may be living. But in case of younger people, the risks associated with social networking are unbounded. Facebook has fixed the minimum age of its users at 13 years, even then, about 52 percent of the 8 to 16-year-olds admitted that they had been able to work around the age limit. The mobile messaging app, Whatsapp has declared the minimum age limit at 16 years and 40 percent have ignored the limit. These statistics may not be as jaw-dropping as the fact that when questioned, 43 percent of the 1,004 teens above the age of 12 admitted that they had messaged strangers online. This nonetheless is not the end of our problem. These sites more than often expose the youngsters to inappropriate material which may shape their minds in incredibly pessimistic ways. This may involve sexual content, items that expose to violence, information regarding drugs or alcohol and racist or sexist information. Younger people are also more likely to fall into the traps of cyber bullies, a situation that not many teenagers think about disclosing to their parents or a responsible adult. Also, while they are being bullied, all youngsters remain depressed and may even be intimidated to cross lines they might not be comfortable stepping outside of. The exposure of our children to inappropriate internet content is a problem that is resulting in atrocious losses, and it is important that we figure out a resolution as soon as we possibly can.
There are ample things we could do to save teenagers from the threats they may themselves not be able to anticipate and also from the possible ramifications of those threats. The first duty to protect the children from all threats that the internet may present to the parents. The step that could prove most useful is to keep the PC in an area which falls into the line of sight of adults so that children’s activity on the computer could be monitored. Many parents find it easier to cut their children off the internet. This step could save them from a lot of troubles but could also take away their chance to learn everything that the internet has to teach. So the better answer would be to give the children access to the internet, but to monitor their activity. Parents should also create an environment at home where their children can freely discuss their problems and come to them for advice. Especially in complex situations like meeting a person that the child connected with online. Connecting with the children on Facebook, twitter or MySpace might also be a good idea. This way, the parents could supervise their activities on the social networking sites and look for signs of bullying or atypical activity.
Adolescents should also be educated at schools regarding the proper use and the intimidation they may risk facing on the internet. Discussion groups should be arranged so that they could know and understand how much information they should be sharing with their friends or with strangers and the ways in which the said information could be misused in the hands of the wrong people. Making support groups available could also help students by providing them with the opportunity to confide in their peers or an elder person regarding problems they may be facing as regards to social networking. Hiring guidance counselors could also help the children by giving them access to one more person they could confide in. They should however be friendly to the students and should be approachable at all times. Also, if any bullying cases come to light, schools ought to take strict action and should involve the parents. Cyber bullying is a very odious crime that often happens after school hours and consequently becomes quite difficult for the school’s administration to track down. This is one reason why so many cyberbullying cases go unreported. In order to solve this dilemma, it is essential that the parents and teachers harmonize and find solutions together.
Many people think that social networking sites may actually be beneficial to the young ones. Eileen Masio, a mother, residing in New York monitors her daughter Amelia’s Instagram account 24/7 and tells a CNN reporter how she realized that social networking might not that bad an activity for teenagers. Most of the comments she saw on her daughter’s selfies showed remarks like “You are so pretty” , “ Gorgeous!” etcetera. Masion thinks that remarks like those could help build her daughter’s self-confidence. Many people might agree with Masio; True! Social networking allows the teenagers to interact at a level that they may find difficult in a face-to-face situation. Even shy people could make friends and find people who share interests with them. It doesn’t however make it okay that Amelia or any other teenager is posting personal selfies on Instagram, where any person who knows her name can download her photographs. People who indulge in the habit of stalking others are discovering more and more ways to feed their habit, thanks to the social networking sites. Not to mention how any person who has a resent against a teenager could say a number of distasteful things which could shatter their self-confidence in a matter of seconds. And it is also not very difficult to pose as someone else and contact other people, because there is no way of proving who a person actually is behind a profile. And these are just a few problems people like us could think of. We have no way of getting into the head of person who might be holding a grudge and we most definitely cannot interpret the lengths that a person with a bitterness in his/her heart could go to to destroy his adversary. Besides, parents may not always have the luxury of time to follow every post and every picture that their children may be posting online.
Teenager’s use of internet is an issue that may have serious repercussion, and therefore is dangerous to ignore. The best way out would be to ban the use of social networking sites for children under the age of 15. Or better yet, children who are under the age of 15 could be allowed to explore the social networking sites, but the degree of access they have to the site should be limited to features that are less likely to threaten their well being. And they should be made conscious of the threats each networking site could expose them to. These are a few steps that every parent should take to save their child from the ghastly feelings people may have towards them.
Wallace, Kelly. The upside of selfies: Social media isn't all bad for kids. 7 October 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/>.
Williams, Rhiannon. Children using social networks underage 'exposes them to danger'. 06 February 2014. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10619007/Children-using-social-networks-underage-exposes-them-to-danger.html>.