Dangers of Social Networking: What Reaserch Says about Youth and Social Media

On July 10, 2017 a young teenaged girl reportedly died after being electrocuted in a bathtub by her cell phone. She was either plugging the device or it was already plugged in when it fell into the water in the bathtub at her father’s home in New Mexico. Such has become the addiction to social networking that especially the young lose sleep, eat indifferently, compromise on their studies with a cascading effect on their careers, have little interaction with the family and very little actual social life; while being influenced by the unknowns they meet on the net.

The situation with the teenaged girl is, of course, an extreme example where a young life was cut short, presumably in that compulsive need to network even while in the bath. Though, this is not the only extreme example. There are many, including those where little children are neglected and starve while their young parents, social network. 

We are going to give a close look to what social networking does to the development of the youth and what research has to say about it. 

As early as 2010 Paul A. Kirschner and Aryn C. Karpinski of CELSTEC, open university of Netherlands set out to study just the users of Facebook to investigate if differences existed in the university students who were Facebook users and non users and their academic performance. The study clearly established that the non users went on to do better.

Now this is about university students who are expectedly at an age that is more responsible and many of whom work part time to finance themselves through until they qualify.

The researchers themselves mention two significantly important aspects through their study though not necessarily in these exact words. One is that Facebook users have a tendency to procrastinate and second that their study only reveals the tip of the iceberg and what lies under the tip is unknown and what is uncharted or undiscovered must be paid heed to.

Since that study, other social media such as Twitter and others have attracted millions of users. Here let us think about the young school going children who are at a more impressionable age, many of whom, social network, during classes and a substantial number even miss classes to keep themselves ‘up to date’ on their social networking. These young, obviously mostly fall behind even before they are at an age to enter university. The consequences are perhaps indisputable.

There have been many studies that have been conducted. One of the most impressive and balanced, according to the writer is the one carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health. The study clearly establishes a link between mental health and social media.

Dangers of cyber influence

Cyber influence takes on proportions that can be quite horrifying. It is known to be linked even to Bulimia; which is defined as an emotional disorder characterized by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self induced vomiting or purging, Anorexia, Obesity, Depression and many others. The writer has stated the definition of Bulimia only to underline the effects.

When there is a feeling of mental ill being quite evidently it also leads to physical ill being which again takes on many forms.

As high as 91 percent of the 16 to 24 years olds use social media in the developed world. Rates of anxiety and depression have increased by 70 percent in the last 25 years. Very recently the World Health Organization also said the rate of depression is on the rise and mental disorders – in particular depression – are now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide and has risen by 18 percent since 2005. They go on to say this will rise further with each passing year.

Socialising vs. social media

It’s not a rarity to see very young and young couples in public places and restaurants who appear to find the internet more interesting than each other, both gazing into their mobile devices.

Cyber social networking is here to stay. We just cannot make it go away. Mental and physical health experts have come up with some recommendations, among these are : 

  1. To introduce a pop-up which warns of heavy usage on social media. 
  1. Social media could identify users who could be suffering from mental health problem, based on their posts and to discretely signpost them. 
  1. Social media to highlight when photos have been digitally manipulated.

Question is, is this enough? Regrettably not. 

And with further regret, here is a quote from Shirley Cramer who is the chief of the Royal Society for Public Health

“Social media has become a space in which we form and build relationships, shape self identity, express ourselves, and learn about the world around us; it is intrinsically linked to mental health” 

So where does the real solution lie, if there is a solution. At home, with kindness and respect towards your young ones.

Photos: Shutterstock

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