The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families

By Aamir M Kanji (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The world is changing at an exponential rate. Every day, scientists as well as other professionals are globally discovering something new. One of the recent discoveries of the twenty first century is social media. In this article we will briefly look at the effects of social media on different age groups. Examples of commonly used social media platforms are Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and of course gaming sites.Such sites offer today’s youth a portal for entertainment and communication and have grown exponentially in recent years. We will first look at the positive and thereafter the negative effects social media has had on our daily lives.

POSITIVE EFFECTS

  1. Easy and cost effective communication.

With the growth of social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype communication has been made possible between people from different poles on the planet.  Not to mention, people no longer need to travel long and tiresome distances to meet their loved ones and families. Working from home for particular jobs has become an emerging feature with emails making transfer of documents and files happen with a press of buttons. People are now also able to express themselves on a world level by publishing articles and opinions on personally created blogs and podcasts. Opportunities for people to engage in community service has been made easier by organizing online charity donations as well as spending time with people online discussing and listening to their needs e.g a psychiatrist can now talk to his/her patients from home instead of personally visiting them. Economically, these social media platforms have made communication cost effective in the sense that you sometimes no longer need to pay heavy bills through mobile networks for calling people across lengthy distances. All you need is a smartphone with access to a standard level of internet establishment.

  1. Enhanced learning opportunities.

Although we are still developing in this aspect but significant changes have been observed with the way societies gain knowledge. Home schooling and learning online for your college/university degree programs is sort of becoming more accessible and user friendly through social media. Students no longer need to attend classes just to gain their information but instead can study using lecture notes and video podcasts uploaded on the university websites making it more user friendly. A lot of skills can be attained and courses undertaken online making it very user friendly to each individual.

  1. Business advertisements and promotions

These days online marketing has become an important factor towards the success of any business. Not only does it not require huge loads of cash but it also reaches quite a high number of people in a very short span of time. Traditional marketing mediums such as the radio, TV commercials and print ads are eventually becoming archaic. The only cost is energy and time.

  1. Online shopping

These days it is easy to purchase various items globally simply through the internet. These days it isn’t necessary for people to travel to particular zones of the world just to be able to buy items of need. The internet through various media platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, OLX and many others offer home delivery for almost every item out there.

  1. The emergence of cryptocurrency

Although, this is a fairly new concept which many people are yet unaware. Safety and security of your belongings is something very important for each and every individual especially if you live in cities which have high crime rates. Cryptocurrency currently gives you the option of buying and storing your money online in the form of virtual money e.g. Bitcoin. You can say it’s similar to online banking with minor differences. Many businesses are currently accepting and adapting to this new system of trade. We still have a lot to learn about the financial strategies implied in this new trading system.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS

  1. Addiction

Personally, this has become a very serious matter. Today’s technology and software has made us attached to it that we acquire an empty feeling without its presence. Teenagers and young adults who are usually the recipients of such technology face a lot of difficulties in accomplishing their daily tasks. This is due to lack of concentration as social media platforms such as Facebook provide interesting yet inconvenient distractions to most of us. Hence, delay in achieving our daily and long term goals becomes a notable hindrance.

  1. Psychological damage to the users.

These days social media has become accessible and user friendly so much so that children as young eight to nine years of age are able to apply the basics of these social media platforms. Indeed, it is important for us all to adapt and move with the new changes the world offers but not to make us compromise our ethical principles. Many websites and social media platforms present themselves with unethical pictures and videos of indirect pornography which is used as a tool by many businesses as a scheme of their promotion. The ones affected by this is mainly teenagers who are undergoing a critical phase of their lives where they are facing a constant battle between their body and what the world has to offer. It brings in them a state of confusion due to lack of ability in choosing the appropriate decision.

  1. Anti-social behavior

Social media platforms may have their advantages such as online shopping and easy communication but with that comes a price. A price which comes with consequences that are sometimes detrimental to the health of individuals. Lack of physical contact and meetings with our fellow souls risks us to lose out on our social skills such as the pronunciation of a basic greeting i.e. hello to the person we come across. Also, a lot of indoor staying leads to a deteriorating effect on our self-esteem and confidence. This can be seen when such kinds of people are asked to perform public speaking.

  1. Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Cyberbullying is deliberately using digital media to communicate fabricated, distressing, or intimidating information about another person. It is the most common online risk for all teens and is a peer-to-peer risk. Cyberbullying is quite common, can occur to any young person online, and can cause profound psycho social outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and, tragically, suicide.

  1. Excessive sharing of information.

Another shortcoming of the social media is that the user shares excessive    information which may pose dangers to them. Even with the tight security settings your delicate information may leak on the social sites. Downloading your videos or pictures and copying your status is an easy task and can be done within few snaps.

These are just among the few impacts social media has had on our daily lives. Please use this article as a means to be able to critically think about your daily routine and how much of it is accumulated by social media. An advice is to try and limit your usage online and share less private and intimate information about your friends and loved ones enough to put them in a state of vulnerability.

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