Social Media Use and Impacts on Children Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1774 Words
Date:  2022-06-06

The term social media is an umbrella term for social network platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat among others. Social media is a recent phenomenon, whose development is barely ten years old. Over the past one decade, there has been a rapid increase in the use and adoption of social media by the general population. Among the leading group of individuals in the use of social media are youths and children. Because of the rapid uptake of social media, there has been concern amongst the researchers concerning their potential adverse impacts on the users. Among the children, the two significant negative consequences of social media use include cyberbullying and sexting.

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Cyberbullying refers to bullying behaviour that occurs via electronic means such as messaging and social networking platforms. Cyberbullying negative affects the lives of teens and adolescents on a daily basis. It is aided by technology and involves the use of cell phones, computers and the Internet to harass another individual. According to Cyber Bullying Statistics Organization, cyberbullying takes various forms. It can involve sending threatening messages to an individual's cell phone, spreading rumours in the Internet, posting mean messages via social media platforms, hacking into another person's account and posting damaging messages, and acting in pretence online with the intention of hurting another person.

Cyberbullying has been found to have adverse impacts on the affected children. More specifically, severe forms of cyberbullying have been linked to increased likelihoods of social and mental health problems (Tokunaga, 2010). One of the mental health problems that are caused by cyberbullying is depression. For instance, in a study conducted by cyber-victimisation among the adolescents was reported to lead to depressive symptoms (Olenik-Shemesh, Heiman, and Eden 361-374).

According to Hoge, Bickham, and Cantor (2017), social anxiety and depression are linked to decreased social interaction due to the replacement of face-to-face interactions with digital media use. Social anxiety disorder refers to the fear of social situations involving communication with other individuals. It is manifested through the fear of embarrassment or the fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations. In such circumstances, the affected individual avoids social situations. The disorder has a negative impact on social and occupational function and is linked to suicidal thoughts and increased substance abuse.

Furthermore, social media has led to the reduction of communication skills and face-to-face interaction because children devote their time in the social media thus there is no human contact (Cheal 145). Children use social media platforms for texting even when spending time with friends and family. This illustrates that social media has led to the decline in the face-to-face interaction among the children, family members as well as friends and relatives. Because of the interaction with the social media, children become shy when communicating with people thus speaks in low tones, faces the ground during communication, and lack the confidence to face people. Lerner, Liben, and Mueller notes that children have made the social media as an alternative for face-to-face communication thus a reduced social contact among the children (482).

Social media use has also affected the health of the children. The physical health of the children has been affected because they spend a lot of time glued to the social media platforms and thus fail to participate in any meaningful physical exercise such as running, walking, and jogging which may lead to the development of obesity. For children who use computers to access the social sites, too much time spent on the computer screen may lead to the onset of computer vision syndrome which may cause double and blurred vision (Hoisington 8). Children also develop text neck which is the damage and pain which develops from using technological devices for an extended period and frequently.

A negative cultural impact on the children has been created because of the extended time that the children spend on social media. Addiction to social media has led to the reduced research and learning abilities among children since they use a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp until they forget to learn. Despite the children getting useful information from the social media, they may start relying on this information which may not assist them in their classwork thus leading to the reduced development of critical thinking and analytical skills in solving problems that they will face as they grow up. Whenever they face challenges, their source of resources and steps of addressing such challenges is the social media. Additionally, social media may contain negative messages like violence which are instrumental in influencing the behaviour of the children (Ciment 1085). For example, children see videos of people abusing drugs, bullying, and smoking. These may influence the children to the wrong side and encourage them to copy these habits. Social media, therefore, is crucially enssential in behaviour influence on the children.

Social media use has also been reported to cause anxiety in children (Hoge, Bickham, and Cantor 76-80). Social media use and its positive association with anxiety in children is linked to the absence of emotional regulation skills because of substituted digital media use. Emotion regulation is a critical skill that an individual develops during childhood and adolescence. The skill is essential in handling and coping with strong emotions. Emotion regulation has also widely been found to be an important constituent of mental health. Problems with emotion regulation is manifested through psychological disorders, especially anxiety and depression.

Another mental problem associated with social media use in children is suicidal thoughts (Luxton, June, and Fairall 195-200). Increased suicidal rates among United States teens have been reported at a time social media use has been surging, suggesting a link between the two. The rise in childhood suicides have been associated with cyberbullying and depiction of "perfect" lives which has been found to take a toll on children's mental health. Teenagers who stay on the internet for more than five hours on a daily basis have been reported to be at 71% higher likelihood of having one risk factor for suicide. The increased risk for suicide is not dependent on the type of content that a teenager is exposed to. More specifically, the amount of time a teenager is exposed to the screen is a stronger predictor of teen depression and suicidal thoughts than the specific content he or she is exposed to.

Cyberbullying, a consequence of social media use among children, has also been found to lead to decreased academic performance. In a study conducted by Muzamil and Shah (79) to examine the factors affecting students' academic achievements in secondary schools, the authors found out that cyberbullying has a negative effect on student's performance. Muzamil and Shah (79) further found out that 38% students who did not undergo bullying obtained "A grades." On the contrary, students who were cyberbullied had poorer grades. Similarly, a study carried out by Egeberg, Thorvaldsen, and Ronning (183-204) established that cyberbullying and cyberharassment are inversely associated with academic performance. Additionally, the negative relationship between cyberbullying or cyber harassment and academic achievement is mediated by poor quality of life at school which decreases the students' academic performance. This means that online bullying has an adverse effect in students' well-being leading to reduced academic performance.

Cyberbullying has also been reported to negatively affect children's self-esteem (Patchin and Hinduja 614). In this study, Patchin and Hinduja (614) investigated the association between students' experience with cyberbullying and their self-esteem. The sample for the study comprised of a random sample of 30 middle school students from grade 6 to grade 8 from one the United States' largest school districts. The findings of this study revealed that the most common types of cyberbullying victimisation include upsetting instant messages, upsetting e-mail from known people, and upsetting MySpace posts. Moreover, the OLS regression analysis conducted to examine whether or not there is a statistically significant relationship between cyberbullying victimization and self-esteem revealed that victims of cyberbullying have lower self-esteem than participants who did not have a history of being cyberbullied. After controlling for socio-demographic factors, both victims and offenders of cyberbullying show lower levels of self-esteem than non-offenders and non-victims (Patchin and Hinduja 619).

Another detrimental impact of social media can be seen in the sexting behaviour of teen internet addicts. Sexting refers to the act of sending sexually explicit videos, messages, and photographs via electronic means (such as social media platforms, email, and text messages). According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 39% of teenagers have reported sending and receiving messages which are sexually provocative. Examples of these messages include sexual videos, lewd messages, and nude photos.

Teenagers have given several reasons why they engage in sexting behaviours. According to Bowker and Etkin (846-857), teenage sexting behaviours are linked to the need to have fun, the need to alleviate boredom, attention seeking, joking, soliciting of favourable feedback, flirting, peer pressure, response to another individual's post, sexual experimentation, and accidental or unintentional posting. Sexting has also been associated with personality factors (e.g. elevated sensation seeking and problems with the handling of stress, and impulsivity). Sexting has been found to have adverse impacts on the affected teenagers. First, sexting has been discovered to have a negative impact on students' mental health. A recent study conducted by Chaudhary (1) examined the association between sexting and youths' mental health and proposed intervention strategies to combat the consequences of sexting. The findings of this study revealed a positive association between sexting and psychological health. More specifically, sexting was found to lead to increased depressive symptoms as well as anxiety in teenagers. In a related study, Weisskirch, Drouin, and Delevi (685-693) sought to investigate the attributes that are linked to sexting behaviours in individuals in romantic relationships. The researchers found out that sexting behaviour is associated with elevated fear of negative evaluation from an intimate partner as well as low attachment avoidance. More specifically, the fear of negative evaluation is associated with sending nude photos and videos. On the other hand, social distress, fear of being negatively evaluated, and low attachment avoidance were linked to sexting behaviours.

Sexting has also been found to lead to low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts in children. According to the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, sexting has made many youths lose their self-esteem while some of them end up killing themselves following widespread sharing of photos by peers. A relatively recent news story involving the tragic impact of sexting involved teenage girl known as Jesse Logan (Schmitz and Siry 23). Logan, like most of the teenagers, sent nude photos of herself to her lover through the mobile phone. When Logan and her boyfriend ended their intimate relationship, he sent the nude photos to his high school colleagues. Because of this, Logan was harassed by her peers and referred to as a prost...

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