Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Risks of Social Media on Children

“We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”

large_socialmediaSocial media has changed the world in bigger and better ways, at least for the business environment. Whilst the social media has given some organizations a competitive advantage or leveled the play field whoever way one may look at it; it has also made some differences to the so called oppressed countries. As one activist from Cairo succinctly put it, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” In light of this, arguably it has also made lives better for the general public in many ways. This view is shared by many but there is now a rising interest, if not major concern, of the effects and impact of social media on children.

Whilst on one hand social media provides entertainment whilst keeping them in touch with their friends and family and engage children with current events; on the other hand it has presented worrying risks such as violence, sharing of obscene materials, vulnerability to child abuse etc. These two contrasting contributions by the social media are essentially presenting a dilemma for parents who have to dice the decisions of whether “to allow or not to allow”. In addition the question that begs answers is that does the social learning or not, does it shape their behaviour or not. This is a question of substance versus form, challenges versus opportunities. What is not at questioning is the need to debate the risk of social media this engaging policy makers with parents and carers.

At the surface it may appear, to some, that social media has no impact on children. Behaviorists will argue that social media affects child development positively and negatively. Children are no different to the way buildings are constructed; they both need a solid foundation. Therefore a wise architecture will ensure that the foundation is strong enough to hold the building even in the face of natural disasters. Similarly, bringing up children must ensure that they are not exposed to anything that may pose risks in their development. Thus social media may be damaging to the very foundation that should be providing support for children. Instead the social media has added to the already wide facilities that deters children from studies, traditional interaction with family members. Television, play stations are a few examples of these ‘other’ gadgets. A recent research by Child Wise supports this claim when it revealed some shocking statistics. A survey of 2445 children aged 5 to 16 found almost 2 in 3 have their own computer (62%) whilst nearly half have internet access in their own room (46%). The poll suggests two thirds (65%) of children go online most days and collectively children in the UK spent 13 million hours on websites every day. A third (36%) of 7 to 19-year olds this rose to 71% of and to 85% for 13 to 16-year-olds. Such evidence is worrying and calls for action by policy makers. This action must be in collaboration with parents and other agencies who work with children.

Carl Wonder

Source: THE UB POST, FRIDAY, APRIL 15 2011, 3p.