Yesterday, one of my students texted me that he sent me a friendship request and it’s still pending, kindly accept it. He is now in his high school, and so I texted him back that I will look into it will confirm it. I usually don’t accept friendship requests from my students as long as they are studying with me. After which, I accepted their requests. This was an exception, However, the thought that struck my mind that my students already have my number he can contact me via call or text at any time then why is that important to him that I should accept his social media request? We can socialise face to face or via call, we humans don’t require an app or a medium to socialise with other humans. Does my students’ reaction on not accepting his friend request is the result of recent technological boom, or it is an obsession of social media itself?
There were times, before the socio-tech era, when people prefer physical interaction and especially teens prefer to engage in a physical, social group over virtual interactions. Since the past two decades, the new era of convenient social media has arrived, which is also more user-friendly, and almost since its creation, it became something for young people. Whether it was the creation of a Facebook social page on a college campus as a way for students to meet-up or the general eye-rolling Twitter received for its short word limit and popularity with the youth of the day. Similarly, sites like LinkedIn show that social media is useful for adults, and the sheer size of marketing budgets from large companies show that social media is recognized as a serious way to reach customers of all ages, However, the assumption still remains that the core of social media is, and will always be, young people.
According to the report, Science of Adolescent Learning: Risk Taking, Rewards, and Relationships, changes in the adolescent brain’s reward-processing systems combined with adolescents’ experiences in new social contexts affect what motivates adolescents and, subsequently, how they learn.
As shown in the image above, adolescents are more sensitive to the effects of certain rewards, especially social recognition rewards, which leads them to higher instances of reward-seeking and sensation-seeking behaviours, especially if peers support that behaviour. In short, teens do use social media (all aspects of it) at a higher rate than older generations. And this is the reason for parents alarming concerns about their kids academic and social development, which they believe are affecting due to this social media boom.
Benefits of Social Media
First of all, it is important for teachers and parents to understand that there are pretty amazing benefits of such online social media for teenagers as well as youth. Think about it. When the cordless phone became a household item, teens spent hours in their rooms talking to their friends. Why?
For the same reason, teens today use social media. It isn’t that teens are dedicating themselves to social media instead of living their lives. Its that social media is their preferred tool for communicating, sharing, and all the other things teens do as they grow into young adults. It let them maintain their bonds, and grow their relationships, even if they didn’t have driver’s licenses, and couldn’t hang out in person.
Risks Associated to the use of Social Media and its Remedies
However, too much of anything is not good either for health or relationships. The benefits start becoming ‘risks’ when teens choose to live their life virtually. Humans are social animals we all know this definition, but human are made to interact physically, its nature’s one of the basic law and violating such law may bring severe repercussions to teens mental and physical developments. These risks can be:
- Being exposed to inappropriate or upsetting content like mean, aggressive, violent or sexual comments or images.
- uploading inappropriate content like embarrassing or provocative photos or videos of himself or others
- sharing personal information with strangers, for example, phone numbers, date of birth or location
- cyberbullying (Previous article: Cyber-bullying: The Dark-side of Technology – Parents Beware)
- exposure to too much-targeted advertising and marketing
- data breaches, like having his data sold on to other organisations.
There are ways through which these risks can be minimised. For example, frequent talks with your children would ensure the internet safety of your child. Teacher and parents should counsel teens frequently to make sure:
- how teens are interacting, behave and be treated by other people online.
- To understand the risks involved in using social media, for example, risks like being tagged in an embarrassing photo taken at a party (Previous article: Cyber-bullying: The Dark-side of Technology – Parents Beware)
- To understand the dangers involved in sharing content and personal information. It includes not only content that your child shares but also images of your child that other people share, or tag them.
- Learn how to mitigate the risks; for example, if your child posts an identifiable image of him or herself, they can reduce risk by not including any other personal information.
- Learn what to do if people ask for personal details, or use abusive language online, tag or post harassing and embarrassing photos of your child, or share information that links back to them.
So, parents and teachers, if you start to worry about your teens and students who spend too much time on social media, sit down with them, and have some face to face talk. Ask them, in a friendly manner, why they spend so much time on their laptops and cellular devices. Listen to their responses, and show that you aren’t judging them, or trying to catch their lies. If you keep open lines of communication, with your teens, then they will feel much more comfortable letting you into the worlds they’re making for themselves as they grow up.
Good luck 😊