According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian teenagers are spending up to 18 hours per week online and 91 percent of teens aged 15 to 19 report using social media. Online and social media use plays a significant role in the lives of today’s youth.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre this year found that YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat have surpassed Facebook as the most popular online platforms among teens. The same survey also found that 95 percent of teens owned or had access to a smartphone. This rise in mobile connection is thought to be driving the continuing increase of online activity among teenagers.
There has been a lot of discussion about the risks associated with social media and online use. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We uncover both the pros and cons of social media use for teens.
1. Allows for social connection
The main purpose of social networking sites is to allow people to socialise, regardless of distance and other barriers. It helps relationships. Young people can make new friends and maintain existing friendships by frequent communication and sharing experiences online. For those teenagers who struggle to make social connections in the physical world, social media can offer a virtual alternative and prevent young people from feeling isolated.
2. Enhances globalisation
The advent of social media has meant that the world has become smaller. We are no longer bound by geographic borders or physical distance. Teenagers can now easily communicate with people from all over the world and experience all the benefits that exposure to other cultures and ideas brings.
3. Provides entertainment and education
The vast majority of social media content provides seemingly endless entertainment. Children can watch videos, view pictures and read blogs, many of which have educational benefits. Social networking sites can also facilitate discussion of homework and assignment topics and provide a base for research and fact-finding initiatives.
4. It’s a great creative outlet
Many social media tools provide an outlet for creative self-expression. Not only are you able to share work such as photography, film, written works and illustrations, other users can offer comments and feedback which can offer the profound benefit of building self-esteem and confidence.
5. Mental health benefits
Social media use stimulates the production of oxytocin which reduces stress levels and promotes feelings of happiness. Online interactions are often much easier than socialising in person – they require little to no emotion and are less demanding. The reward and happiness we receive from likes and positive comments are often the result of very little effort and time.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to bully a person or group with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or physically. Statistics revealed by the Children’s eSafety Commission in 2016 showed that 19 percent of children aged 14 to 17 reported being harassed or bullied online. If a child is the victim of cyberbullying, he or she should seek help immediately. The Kids Helpline is available seven days a week and many schools also offer counselling support.
A new video game designed specifically for the classroom by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner aims to encourage digital intelligence and online safety skills among students. Called The Lost Summer, the video game is aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds and can be downloaded for free.
2. Platform for predators
Unfortunately social media provides a platform for predators to groom and abuse children. Users are able to create fake profiles and children are at risk of communicating with people who are unknown to them and who might cause them harm. Children should never disclose their personal information and location to any person on social media.
Due to the fact that social media use can generate reward and feelings of happiness so easily, it’s a practice that tends to become addictive. It can also be very time consuming, teens can waste hours online. Parents should limit screen time and set clear expectations about social media usage.
4. Lack of focus
Social media can be a distraction. It can divert attention from an activity that your child is supposed to be focusing on, such as study, sporting commitments or assignments. It’s important to ensure your child is maintaining a healthy lifestyle and participating in social activities away from the computer. Removing devices from bedrooms and monitoring social media online usage is also advised.
Social media tools use algorithms to collect personal data such as your date of birth and home address so that advertisers can use that information to target consumers. This can be dangerous because it means your personal information is no longer confidential and teenagers can be exposed to advertising and products that they may not be ready for. We recommend turning off the geotagging and Bluetooth apps on devices, using the highest privacy settings and educating your child about protecting their personal information online.
6. False sense of security
Teens may be inclined to do things on social media that they would not do in public, like post a compromising photo or saying something they would never have the courage to say in person. Teens should be made aware of the impact their digital footprint could have on their future. While it may be difficult for them to think past school, future potential employers could use social media profiles to gain an insight into their personality and personal life. Parents should remind their teens that once they post something publicly, it is there to stay. While anyone can delete their profiles, they never truly disappear, and once an image or thought is posted online you lose control over where it is distributed and shared.
The Children’s eSafety Commission offers some great resources for parents to keep children safe online. We have also identified five tips to promote online safety at home:
- Create a culture of openness within the home to encourage your child to come forward with online safety or cyberbullying concerns.
- Train your child about the various forms of cyberbullying, how to identify them and what do if they fall victim.
- Keep up-to-date with the latest technology and social media practices. Trinity offers extensive training in this area for its students, through its Life Skills programme.
- If you have concerns about your child’s safety, check device history and use parental locks such as Net Nanny, Google Safe Search and Qustodio.
- Change passwords every three months to heighten security.
At Trinity, we celebrate families and all they do for their children and the community. We believe in working collaboratively with parents and students in a supportive Christian environment to ensure our boys realise their full potential, embrace their passions and find their life’s purpose.
To learn more about the Trinity difference, and education in general, sign up to our newsletter.