The Rise of Social Media

The Rise of Social Media

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The Internet, social media and all of the related technology are here to stay. This new technological landscape does add a sparkle to our lives. But, this impact has a dark side, observes Rohit Kumar

The power of social media that springs to life with a click of the mouse. And, lo and behold, you are connected with the world at large. This obviously, is the amazing part.

In the last decade, it can be observed that the popularity of social networking sites has spread like wild fire. It spelt sheer magic. The youth brigade – students, teenagers indeed, got hooked on to it. It was just right to reach out globally. And, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook became a rage.

On the other side, there is a negative side too.

First, the bright side of social media

The power of social media can be extremely influential. Take the Arab Spring, the political upheaval of Egypt in the beginning of 2011. The social media created something unforgettable.

Social media itself can be abused, overused and taken advantage of. But, whether that incredible power is a boon or bane is debatable.

Fact is, social media is constantly evolving in front of our eyes and it is almost impossible to ignore this new media. Besides providing a platform for socialization with peers, it is now used to market and motivate people to become a part of a larger community. It is undeniably changing the way one communicates and how one searches for and shares information.

The ‘booning’ nay, ‘booming’ side is clearly visible. A number of websites offer a variety of communication options – like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and some blog formats. What’s more, with new apps on smartphones and with photography and video going digital, media can be created, edited and shared instantly. And, once it enters this new digital cloud, it goes beyond your grasp; it is not yours anymore. Revolutionalising communication patterns, you can share information for the world to view, which reaches your friends instantaneously. And, quite rightly, it offers adolescents novel ways to communicate and be entertained too. But the long-term effects are still not totally revealed.

And, there’s a dark side too

Social media is changing the behavior of our society. Some say social media sites can lend to shorter attention spans and less efficient work. Teenagers tend to abuse social media and use it for popularity.

Hence, it is imperative that parents explore this new media, and understand it better as it can ring in both good and bad effects for children.

Based on the research, it is believed that the positive benefits of social media-use are starting to outweigh the negative ones; but parents and teachers need to take a call and make a considered effort to ensure that the positives outweigh the negatives.

While we are busy playing the role of being good parents or teachers, we may be oblivious to the actual effects of social media on children. True, they are indeed busy with the daily chores like – providing healthy meals, driving kids for cricket practice, attending parent-teacher meetings, teaching them to say “no” to drugs and other bad habits. They should move beyond these boundaries.

Always on ‘Plugged-in’ mode – good or bad?

Technologically connected , the youth today are on to social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when they are able to chat in real time with their friends who are miles away.

But, there’s the dark side to social media. There are bad effects of being ‘plugged in’ and is beginning to take a toll on the youth. Because, social interaction is overwhelmingly online rather than face-to-face, today’s youth are showing severe lack of social skills. They are often, more comfortable with technology than with actually ‘talking’ to people. They do not pick up proper communication and conversational skill. Researchers have found that the middle-school, high school and college students, who dabbled with Facebook at least once during a 15-minute period, get lower grades overall.

Many teens usually spend sleepless nights on social media without the knowledge of their parents. And this disruption of sleep has had adverse effects – like insomnia, mood swings, attention deficits at school and even increased obesity, to mention a few. These are some of the serious negative effects of social media on teenagers. And, indeed, Facebook addiction has thrown up issues that cannot be ignored.

With such glaring evidence of the negative effects of social media on children, why then, are many parents not taking appropriate action to protect their children?

Some major reasons

There can be three major reasons, as far as parents are concerned:

  • Parents are totally ignorant of the issues involved in online connections.  While kids are ‘plugged in’ to social media, only about 40% of parents are involved themselves.  They may not be aware of their children’s Facebook “pages”; they don’t fully understand privacy policies and don’t realize what kinds of public postings are taking place, involving their children.
  • Parents don’t want to interfere in their children’s social lives.  They  want their children to be popular, be accepted and enjoy a happy social life; they want to allow their children to be as connected as the other kids they associate with, and so they hoodwink  themselves to believe that everything is ok.
  • Parents are afraid to take a stand.  Many  ‘modern’ parents are becoming apathetic to the real dangers that an overdose of social media can present to their children. Not  wanting to push their teens away, they allow social media affliction  go unchecked rather than make an ‘issue’ out of it.

Social media safety tips for parents

The starting point can be with parents exploring social networking sites themselves. Thus , they can monitor appropriate social media usage for their kids. Parents can help their kids explore the world of social media as safely as possible by following a few simple tips.

Be social media savvy

  • Keep up-to-date on social networking sites that appeal to teens.
  • Set up your own Facebook account so you can “friend” your teen and monitor your teen’s online activity.
  • If your teen rejects having a parent for a “friend,” give him or her 24 hours to clean up the Facebook account. Then sit down together and go over their friends, photos and wall messages. (If you can’t be Facebook friends, insist on having free access to your teen’s Facebook page any time you want).
  • Use your web browser’s ‘History’ button to keep track of the websites your teen visits.

Teens’ favourite social networking sites

Social networking site

URL

Main activities

Facebook

facebook.com

creating profiles, sharing photos and videos, and online chatting

YouTube

youtube.com

uploading, sharing, and viewing videos

MySpace

myspace.com

listening to music, watching videos, playing games, and creating profiles

Twitter

twitter.com

creating and posting 140-character messages called “tweets”

Gaia Online

gaiaonline.com

playing games, creating avatars, decorating virtual homes, and participating in forums

Club Penguin

clubpenguin.com

playing games; accessing recipes, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and colouring pages

About the author

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Somanjana Chatterjee

Somanjan Chatterjee is San Francisco based consulting editor