Positive And Negative Effects Of Social Media On Students
Social media has taken over our lives in a big way. But, are you aware of the positive and negative effects of social media on students? Read on to know more!
By Sarika Chuni • 12 min read
With the relatively benign purpose of helping us keep in touch with old friends, social media, over the past few years, has taken over most of our lives. With our busy lifestyles, parenting techniques have also evolved. Where spending time with our parents was an 'organic' activity in the past, parents, these days, often take a specific time out and schedule 'quality time' with their child. And the time that remains free for children are often spent with them being glued to the screen of a smartphone or tablet! In such a scenario, have we ever analysed the positive and negative effects of social media on students? It’s time to do it.
“12 to 13-year-old children were talking about cartoons on television, half a decade back. Whereas, children of the same age, these days, prefer talking about their Instagram stories, multiplayer games such as PUBG, or are busy posting their daily lives online on social media platforms,” says Aditi Sharma, Counselling Psychologist with a decade-long experience in counselling school children.
A study on the new media and social media habits of tweenagers (those 12 years and above) by Dr. Sunpreet Kaur Sahni and Ms. Yukti Ahuja, published in March 2017, under the title ‘Marketing to Tweenagers: Delving into their Choice of Media and its Influence on their Purchase Intention’, in the Pacific Business Review International reveals that the influence of new media, especially social media on tweenagers is high in the country. The study reveals that a “majority of tweenagers browse through internet everyday with more internet exposure on holidays. They are equally impressed by the social media and the paraphernalia around it. In addition, the Indian tweenagers are influenced by the charm of social networks. Despite their age group, they all are active on Facebook either through their own account or through their parents’ / friends’ accounts.”
With the growing popularity of social media among Indian youth, and the proliferation of such sites online, it has become increasingly difficult for time-constrained parents to keep tabs on their child’s online presence.
The McAfee Teens, Tweens and Technology survey of 2015 suggests that “it is essential that parents remain vigilant and invested in their children’s online lives. An open and truly communicative relationship between child and parents is the absolute number one best way of helping your kids stay safe online.” Apparently, most parents consider their children's knowledge of social media far superior to their own, and this hampers their attempt to monitor their children online.
Parents are caught in this tug-of-war between leaving their children to roam free in the relatively unsafe cyberworld or remove access to social media completely. Aditi warns against it, saying, “Children 12 years and above are at the kind of age where they need to develop a sense of identity for themselves, and socialisation among their peer group is a large part of that process. Not only that, they are also prone to rebellion against any kind of authority they might deem interfering with their socialisation. So, removing all access to social media is not a solution at all. Instead, it helps to look at the situation from a different perspective, and see both the positives and the negatives that social media brings into our children’s lives.”
Also read: Friendships On Social Media
So, let us first look at the positive impact of social media on children. When used with the desired amount of caution, and in a healthy and communicative family environment, social media has a number of advantages.
Positive effects of social media on students
- Helps build connections: Social media has become an essential tool to connect with the world in today’s age of technology and knowledge-based society.
- Adds value to relationships: Children share their interests and maintain friendships with their friends online.
- Develops digital media literacy: Exploring and using social media under parental guidance is the only way for the child to navigate this technology-driven world, where digital literacy is the best way to stay updated.
- Aids collaborative learning: Several schools have taken approaches such as 'flipped classrooms' or online group quizzes and chatrooms, for students to collaborate on educational projects and related academic tasks. Children can also access a lot of learning forums where they can discuss their queries on a social group with similar ideas.
- Gives the child a sense of belonging: Children feel being a part of the community by taking part in local and global online communities.
It is not all peaches and cream, however. Aditi feels that many children are turning towards the wrong path at the tender adolescent age. “Social media has turned the child’s locus of control to mostly external events and people. It leads to a stunted self-image and desire for external approval, as opposed to self-confidence and high self-esteem,” she adds.
The disadvantages of social media use among students, who are allowed a freehand in their social media usage by unaware parents, are insidious and need to be paid attention to.
Negative effects of social media on youth
- Exposure to inappropriate content: We are all aware of the dangerous social media challenge games, such as Blue Whale, that claimed many innocent lives merely through a chat window. If parents are not very tech-savvy or not monitoring online usage, children might get exposed to extremely inappropriate content online.
- Cyber predators: Regardless of what we might want to believe, the screen of anonymity that social media gives its users offers a safe haven to child predators. It is extremely important, then, for the child to be aware of what kind of information he can give to a stranger, or someone his family doesn’t know in person.
- Cyberbullying: A study published on 27 June 2018 (https://www.ipsos.com/en/global-views-cyberbullying), by Ipsos, a market research firm, revealed that ‘one in three parents worldwide (33%) report knowing a child in their community who had been cyberbullied, up from 26% in 2011. It is important that parents create an open communication environment that encourages children to talk to them about any kind of bullying they might be facing on social media. It is also imperative that we equip children with the emotional tools to resiliently face and stand up to their bullies, or walk away, whichever might be more appropriate.
- Exposure to targeted advertising and marketing: A close friend of mine recently got a shock when his credit card drew a massive bill. It turns out his daughter had been purchasing tokens to beat a friend who was doing better in an online fashion simulation game. It is important for us to realise that children are the most easily swayed group, which is why most marketing strategies target them. It is our duty as parents to keep such easy temptations, which open a free access to our credit card info, away from them.
- Data and privacy issues: Children who are not aware of the kind of information they can share on social media, can often end up sharing more than they should, without the right amount of privacy settings. This might make them prone to serious security issues such as data breaches (your credit card numbers being stolen from your computer), hacking and even identity theft.
What then, is the solution to the negative impact of social media? Aditi has two main suggestions, “Keep yourself up to date with all kinds of social media sites and games that your child might be using, and be a good role model by using social media responsibly yourself.”
How can parents handle social media effects on children?
- Educate yourself about social media: If you don’t have an account on the social media site that your child uses or wants to use, get one. Teach yourself everything about that site. Make sure you know exactly what she can and cannot do on that site, decide and make the rules explicitly clear to your kid.
- Build your child’s digital intelligence: Teach your child about posting any kind of information on sites, and the concept of digital footprint. Give him this mantra, “Don’t post anything online that you might be ashamed to show your offline world, at any time in the future.”
- Teach your child about the importance of privacy: Tell her how much personal information is too much and what she can share. Also give her an idea of the consequences that you as a family might have to face in case of a data breach.
Social media can never replace the importance of real-life relationship-building, and quality time with family and friends. However, regardless of how much you’d want to shield your children from social media, most of them will use it eventually. It is, therefore, the smart thing to stay aware of the positives and negatives of social media. You can use this knowledge to guide and supervise your children so that they may grow up into responsible and healthy cyber citizens.
About the expert:
Reviewed by Aditi Sharma on 7 June 2019
Aditi Sharma is a counselling psychologist at a leading child and adolescent mental health institute.
About the author:
Written by Sarika Chuni on 31 May 2019; updated on 23 September 2019
The author is a Special Educator (specializing in learning disabilities) and a Management Graduate, with a diverse experience in the corporate and the non-profit sector.
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