Social Media And The Young: A Match Made In Heaven Or Hell?

We have all faced being judged as well as judging others for being social media addicts. The trend of keeping your eyes on the screen emerged a few years back, and it is here to stay. Since smart phones have become widespread, the controversy about their effect on children and youth has become intense. With adults constantly nagging about the negative effects of the increased use of technology, especially social media, one must wander: are they right? Should children and young people be using social media at all, and is there a positive side of the new lifestyle that has become global since the digital era started?

Bullying, lack of content control, and lack of privacy are generally the big boys when talking about the negative effects of social media usage among young adults and children.

Most adults point out that young people have stopped socializing in the same manner that they once did – face to face – and instead they are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. But is it such a bad thing? Our parents did not have the chance to talk to someone from across the globe when they were sixteen, but does that mean that we also shouldn’t do it? The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Data found out, that social media usage is helping children develop social skills, teamwork, and networking abilities. 

Now adults tend to be more cautious when it comes to online activities, as they are aware of all the possible consequences this form of communication offers. Over-controlling their children and constantly checking their online activities has become a daily routine for a lot of parents. Their intentions may be good, but can they really control their kids in cyber space? According to research by Common Sense Media, more than 30 percent of teenagers are active online users and believe their parents know little or nothing about what social media apps and sites they use, despite the fact that 86 percent of teens stated that they had had The Talk with their parents about online use.

The fact that young people don’t get along with their parents is indisputable. It has been like that since the dawn of time, and it most certainly will not change. However the dangers that lurk with social media have been noted by experts also, and most schools – both elementary and high school today – have programs to teach children about the digital world, privacy, safety, and other aspects that are so clear to adults while young people disregard them. Most young people don’t stop to think that updating their Facebook status may have an impact on their college admission or even employment opportunities. On the other hand, there are multiple examples of young people doing well with social media. Countless young adults are making a living as social media influencers, a job that enables them to educate themselves, to travel, to explore, and to grow. Social media has given the chance to every child who has a high-speed internet connection to become an entrepreneur. Now that is pretty awesome, don’t you think?

There are more examples of effects of social media usage among children and the young. One of them has not been fully confirmed, but it is so astonishing that is must be spoken of. At Columbia University a new research project has been launched by Dr. Silvia Martins, a substance abuse expert, to determine the relationship between internet and drug use among teenagers. Why? Well basically they have evidence – the numbers – that drug use among youth aged from 12 to 17 has dropped significantly, and Dr. Martins thinks it is highly plausible that this is the result of internet use.

While we wait for Columbia University to confirm this theory let’s keep in mind that social media is a tool, and like any tool it can be greatly beneficial but also dangerous. So being careful and moderate is the best way to go. The digital era is new to all of us, but some of us were born in it. Partially this is true of Millennials, but GenZ takes it all the way.

Photo: Shutterstock

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