Should children and young people (under the age of 18) be restricted in their use of social media? Give reasons and evidence for your view.
“Youth are actively using the internet as an important form of social interaction” (Bringnall & Valley, 2005). Youth usage of social networking sites is one of the most controversial debates in this day and age. Scholars, teachers, parents and carers are concerned about these sites that has penetrated almost every young person’s life. Stereotypes about adolescent misuse of social media SM was enormous in recent years, and that is the reason behind this concern. Social media like any other platform has its pros and cons, it mainly depends on the person to decide how to use it, and it is possible for parents to set specific limitations on the use of SM. In this essay, benefits of social media will be investigated, whether it is psychological, educational or health related benefits for young people. As well as considering the opposing and alternative point of views. There are a huge number of books and researches identifying the detriments of social media usage by youth like (The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett) and many others, but there are not as many to support the concept of beneficial SM usage. In order to explore and examine this concept in depth, it is required to have a clear understanding of the different dimensions of social media.
For many years, adolescents were treated differently due to the false assumptions most people have about them, they were considered as the part of society who receives but never give. They are neglected in a penalty of occasions within society, for instance the British general elections. They are deemed as disobliging, unreliable and irresponsible human beings. However, social media came to existence and changed this situation to a certain extent, it helped young people to make their voice heard and get involve in the decision-making system, it allowed them to freely express their opinions, put pressure on authorities and easily contact the officials like local MPs and councillors. “Social media provides an efficient vehicle for the rapid transmission of information about planned events and political developments” (Ayanoglu& Sila",2012) Organisation and preparation for protests or campaigns takes place facilely and rapidly with the use of social media, Participants especially younger ones use SM to spread acquaintance and agenda about their campaign, and create hashtags to share their conceptions with the audience and invite others to participate. For example, the 2011 Egyptian revolution which is known as the January 25 revolution, the date of the protest was determined by youth groups. As well as the twitter hashtag #Jan25 which made an immense impact in the success of the revolt and had a huge prominence across the Arab world.
Not only freedom of speech that social media has provided for young people, but also “deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community, and the world” (O’Keeffe",2011). SM helped adolescent to build confidence and a high level of self-esteem, it tackled the feeling of loneliness for some children because there is an entire group of friends supporting them whether they are real-life or online friends. They often share the same problems and issues in life, so they communicate and vent to each other, exchange solutions and ideas, and reciprocate background experience and knowledge about the issues they are facing. This will also increase a sense of tolerance and diversity among adolescent since these online friends are from different backgrounds and regions. Which may help in resolving global racial issues. Collaboration among communities has also risen after the revolution of SM, young people can easily promote any upcoming philanthropic events in their community such as raising money for charity and voluntary work demand in local centres. Learning wise, SM had benefited students massively, it supported learners who prefer to study with a group, now they can continue discussing about their projects or assignments outside of class, with video infrastructure which is ideal for collaborative work and enable users to visualise their partners facial expressions unlike the traditional audio communication. (O’Keeffe, G. S., et al., 2011)
In addition, it authorises students who are studying practical subjects like music, art or engineering to post and share their enterprises, which will enhance their individual creativity and provide a valid support from followers. As well as creating part-time job opportunities or summer work for high school students through the promotion of their projects, which will also help them to enrich their experience/knowledge and open a new horizon that might lead them to think about their future careers plans and eligibility of doing jobs. The creation of blogs, Podcasts, and wikis has certainly helped adolescents to expand and grow more ideas about their subject of study, because contributors in such websites usually share the same interest, and would be able to answer accurately to any questions or inquiries student have. Alongside with live chat sections where students can discuss any issue that might arise during performing projects or assignments. Most secondary/high schools started using the e-learning websites for easier contact between teachers and learners, for homework uploading utility, and to quickly release announcements and inform students with any upcoming events. This boost independency and self-governing state for children, this also introduce children to the methods they will use in their future higher education studies where traditional style learning is not often used. Moreover, educational videos on YouTube has considerably benefited students especially for revision and recapping lessons in exams season. As well as the ability to access a wide range of academic resources like e-books, e-journals and databases. After all, as Collin, P., et al. (2011, p. 13) observe that studies conducted on the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) have found that “access to virtual or online communities is more important than the physical education environment” (education.au 2009) however, educational benefits of SM is still neglected in public debate.
Furthermore, adolescents became able to access health information effortlessly and anonymously. Resources in a variety of topics related to health is increasingly available and has a superior quality comparing to other subjects’ sources, youth can uncomplicatedly view topics that interests them and get a good understanding about them. For example, sexual infections, symptoms of depression, and stress reduction. These are some of the common diseases that concern teenagers, but with the use of SM they can get advice or instructions on how to deal with these illnesses from reputable doctors and with unknown profiles to protect their privacy. Some young people are not comfortable or ashamed to talk about such topics particularly with grownups whether they are members of their families or teachers and personal tutors. However, medical websites have risen so much awareness among youth about various health problems, and enabled teens to build supportive networks with people who experience similar conditions. Generally, SM has offered a noticeable betterment on multiple ways regrading adolescent’s health such as medication commitment and decreasing the number of missed appointments, due to the better recognition of how disease can affect our bodies and wellness. (O’Keeffe, G. S., et al., 2011)
In contrast, many people would argue that social media is a dangerous platform and people under the age of 18 should be restricted in their use of it. cyberbullying, grooming, phishing, online sexual harassments, fake identities, lack of privacy, and an endless list of harms caused by inaccurate SM usage can impact youngsters. “Using social media becomes a risk to adolescents more often than most adults realize” (O’Keeffe",2011) Any of the mentioned risks can happen in an immediate period without parent’s consciousness, and it can affect children and young adults horrendously. Thus, parent’s guidance and mentoring are vital during the upbringing process for this generation, parents should be familiar with the modernised forms of technology and SM sites initially, and the positive and negative impacts of it. Then, they should carefully pass on this knowledge to their children to prevent such incidents. Online harassments can be defined as the use of instant messages to extort an individual, this can be done to any young person and can happen in many ways like harassing someone for an image or a personal detail, and that is why adolescent should be warned that too much information online is very risky and can lead them to become a cyber victim. Along with grooming which is the act of being friendly and kind to someone in order to build a relationship with them and reach to the ultimate target which is being able to physically harasses the child.
In conclusion, social media benefited some young people in many aspects of their lives like education, social unity, and health. On the other hand, it harmed some youth as well and caused insecurity and fear in their lives. In both ways, it depends on the user of SM and their intentions, and the level of knowledge they have about social networking sites and its implications. From my personal experience, I do not think children and young people should be restricted in their use of social media, because people in this age group are naturally amateurs for any trending sort of technology. So, they should not be restricted, they should rather be educated about the hazards they might encounter. As for me, I was not allowed to use SM until I reached the age of 15, and I have encountered an extreme peer pressure which led me to attempt doing anything that would make me ‘fit in’ with the group of friends. That is why children and young people should be mentored in their use of SM rather than restricted.
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