Risks of Online Social Networking for Children

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Online social networking is a kind of connecting with other people through online platforms which called social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. O’Keeffe and Pareson (2011) define it in their article The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families that it is Any website that allows social interaction is considered a social media site. Nowadays, almost everybody is involved in online social networking which affords an easy connection even for children. As reported in the article Children, Adolescents, and the Media, by American Academy of Pediatrics, The average eight to ten years old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend eleven hours per day. However, there is a big argument about if children should be involved in online social networking or not. To answer this question, we need to think about the benefits and risks of online social networking for children.

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In my research paper I’m going to discuss the benefits and risks of online social networking for children within four main axes; socially, healthy, safety, and educationally. First, I’m going to discuss how online social networking effects on children socially. As a virtual world containing and gathering thousands of people, online social networking encourages children to make new friends, especially for those who feel shy and stress when they meet new people face to face. Also, online social networking affords an appropriate and easy way for children to connect with their peers and friends. According to the article The role of social networking sites in early adolescents’ social lives, children between the ages of 11 and 14 who use social media in the Netherlands report a higher level of friendship quality (Antheunis, Schouten, and Kahmer, 2016). Furthermore, when children share their interests through online social networking that helps them to find some new friends who have the same interests. In this way, children can find through online social networking the community which they like to be involved with. In addition, with this kind of connection, children can share their problems and get some advice to solve it. That helps them to develop their solving problems skills from their experience and other people experience.

Also, online social networking helps children to communicate with friends who live in different countries and belong to different backgrounds. That makes them open minded to other cultures, ethnics, and religious. According to the article Benefits and Risks of Social Media, Social media can help bring together diverse groups of children. Having contact and communicating with children of a diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious background can be the key to developing tolerance and respect for different groups of people (Darko, 2018). Hence, online social networking has big socially advantages for children. On the other hand, spending a long time affects negatively on children’s social life because they go far from the real community to the virtual one. Over time, their social skills decline in real society because they become unable to communicate easily. Chidiogo Anosike (2017) explains in his article Effects of Social media on Kids in the Future that When kids get older, they would not be able to interact with each other face to face, which is the first source of communication before technology. Then he added, If we just put them through one way of interacting and communicating, it would really affect them long term because it’s not healthy to have one way of communicating and not being able to branch out in different ways.

Furthermore, spending a long time by children on online social networks may increase the risk of exposure to cyber-bullying or other similar negative interactions. A poll conducted by The Global Research Company Ipsos in 2012 showed that 12 percent of parents around the world announced that their children have been cyberbullied, while 26 percent announced that there is a child in their community who has experienced cyberbullying. Of those, a majority (60 percent) said the cyberbullied occurred on social networking sites like Facebook (Pellissier, 2018). In conclusion, online social networking helps children to improve their friendships. At the same time, it takes them away of the real society to the virtual one. The other effect of social networking which people discuss is healthy. When children spend a long time with their devices using social networks, they get bad health effects such as vision problems and obesity. Actually, the argument now is not only about the physic health effects, but it is also about the psychology and mental health effects, which is considered more serious.

Many parents worry about how online social networking might affect their kids developmentally because they know that kids learn new social skills easily and quickly, so they don’t want them to spend a long time glued to their devices to follow posts of their friends or famous people. These posts are not always contain a good and appropriate content for them which may affects bad on their behavior and mental health. Actually, the parents in their worries are right, because psychologists have also observed the bad effects of online social networking on the behavior and mental health of children. Indeed, official figures have shown that children who spend more than three hours daily on online social networks like Facebook and Twitter are more than twice as likely to get poor mental health (Jamieson, 2015). Hence, experts worry that online social networking is promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem. Dr. Larry Rosen in Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids article shows that children and teens who use Facebook tend to be more narcissistic, antisocial, and aggressive (Rosen, 2011). Furthermore, researchers have proposed a new kind of depression called Facebook depression defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. (O’Keeffe and Pareson, 2011).

In addition, researchers suppose that online social networking has a negative impact on children’s behavior. Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviors, such as bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation, that have introduced problems such as cyberbullying, privacy issues, and sexting. Other problems that merit awareness include Internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation. (O’Keeffe and Pareson, 2011). Hence, parents and specialist are worry about using online social networks by children. The healthy benefits of online social networking for children that they have access to many health resources throw online pages and groups. Therefore, they can learn a lot about their health concerns. Likewise, they can follow a proper diet step by step with very clear directions. Health resources are increasingly available to youth online, but social media can provide even more health information, as users share medical information online with each other (Darko, 2018). Also, children with chronic and rare diseases can join supportive groups of people with similar conditions and create online communities. That helps them to face their illnesses by talking about their experiences and supporting each other.

Briefly, although online social networking sites have bad health and psychological effects, it also provides children with health knowledge and combines them with other children who have similar health conditions. The other point of the argument about online social networking for children is safety and privacy. Many children publish their real names and pictures. They also post their personal information such as birth date and school name. About 90% of boys and girls share their real names and photos of themselves on social media. Most of them also share their birthdate, interests, city where they live, school name, etc (Darko, 2018). This may have consequences for their personal life in the future. In the article 5 Mistakes (Even Smart) Kids Make Online Tedeschi mentioned Courtney Marinak’s story; “”About six months ago, I was contacted on Facebook by a guy in his 20s or 30s who had the same last name as me,”” says, 18, a recent high school grad from Jupiter, FL. “”He said that we were related, and he was able to determine which one of his uncles was my father and even tell me what my sister’s name was, all from information that was pieced together from my Facebook account. It turned out that he was legitimately related to me, but it was still scary having a stranger know so much about me”” (Tedeschi,2009).

The interactive nature of online social networks and its increasing used results in valid datasets of online human activities, or digital footprints, including information shared by users on their social networks profiles such as personal information about age, gender, place of residence, as well shared texts, pictures, and videos (Madden, Fox, Smith, & Vitax, 2007). These digital footprints can be recorded to be used by hackers and thrifts for hacking, malware, or identity theft. Also, it may be used by advertisers to get advertising databases which they use to classify the audience. In this way they can analyze and understand the users’ tendency and manage their advertising on the page of every user of online social networks. Furthermore, there are companies work on collecting users’ information and sell it to other companies which use it in different ways. In short, because the children are not aware of privacy policies of online social networks, they share too much information about themselves. All these information is being used and sold by many parties. The fourth axis in the discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of online social networking for children is the education. Online social networks afford a useful resource in education through following pages which provide a scientific and academic content such as: NASA, National Geographic, and Ted.

Also, children can improve and support their education through following educational pages which afford an educational content related to subjects that they study in schools such as: Fun Learning Activities for Kids, and Kids Learning Tube. Wherefore some schools recently have been using social networks as a teaching tool. These schools have dealt with social networks as a necessary resource in education, so they create teaching groups to share with their students many kind of resources, such as e-books, education videos, online articles and other learning experience. Some schools successfully use blogs as teaching tools, which has the benefit of reinforcing skills in English, written expression, and creativity. (O’Keeffe and Pareson, 2011). Also, students use online social networks to share information about school assignments and homework through Facebook or WhatsApp groups. Mingle and Adams (2015) showed that ”written communication on cyberspace enables students to takepart in discussions at a time convenient to them and articulate their ideas in more carefully thought-out and structuredways. Facebook and similar social media programs allow students to gather outside of class to collaborate and exchange ideas about assignments. (Hopkins, 2011). In this way, they can communicate and exchange their experience and ideas.

For all of that, online social networking has become a significant educational tool. On the contrary, online social networking may have educational disadvantages. In a study entitled “”School performance, social networking effects, and learning of school children: Evidence of reciprocal relationships in Abu Dhabi””, the researchers have revealed that Social media outcomes negatively in?uenced school performance if not used properly. (Badri, AlNuaimi, Guang, & AlRashedi, 2017). Moreover, online social networks are easy and accessible sources of information which are not verified or checked. Children often do not have the ability to sort the information or verify it from other resources, so it is easy for children to get unreliable and inaccurate information from social networking sites. In brief, online social networking has many advantages educationally. At the same time, it has many disadvantages if it is not used properly. Many parents and specialist are concerned about the use of online social networking by children because of its serious social, health, educational and privacy disadvantages.

Therefore, children are not allowed to create accounts on social networking sites and engage in this virtual world. In fact, online social networking is a double-edged sword. Despite the benefits which children can get it, it has some risks. Consequently, it is not right to allow children to have unlimited and unconditional engagement in online social networks. At the same time, it is not wise to prevent children from using online social networking completely to not deprive them of its advantages. To make this balance, some researchers and specialist suggest many strategies. First of all, Tricia C. Bailey advises to not deny children of online social networking. When you tell a young child ‘Don’t touch the stove,’ what’s the first thing they want to do? Touch the stove,”” (as cited in C. Bailey T. 2018). If children are spending long time on online social networking Darko S. recommends their parents to help them to find some other activities to fill in their time. Try talking to them and seeing if they’re interested in taking up a hobby, or a sport. (Darko, 2018). Also, it is very important to respect children’s privacy in dealing with their online safety. A better approach for children’s online safety implies not necessarily intervening, but mediating their online behavior. For example, you should occasionally monitor the information they post online and talk to them about it, but you shouldn’t read their private conversations or use parental monitoring software to block content that contains online risks. (Darko, 2018).

In addition, parents should guide their children and learn them how they protect themselves online. It is a good idea to enroll children in interesting projects which concerned with teaching children about networking, firewalls, ports, and internet security, etc. (Darko, 2018). Finally, there are many social networking sites for children which impose a higher level of privacy and protection for their accounts and posts such as ScuttlePad, Togetherville, What’s What, and Skid-e Kids. It is a great idea to encourage children to use these sites instead of that which has a lower level of privacy. In following these recommendations, parents can make online social networking available, useful, and safe for their children. In conclusion, nowadays, children have access the Internet anytime and anywhere through desktops, laptops, iPads, tablets, and smartphones. They can and they want to be involved in online social networking which has many advantages such as develop their social skills, support their education, and provide them with a healthy guide. In contrast, engaging children in online social networking may expose them to some risks such as lack of privacy, getting untrusted information, and wasting long time. To deal with it wisely, we have to guide them to use online social networks properly to get the benefits and avoid the risks.

References

  1. Tiene, 2000Tiene C.D. 9 (4) (2000), Online discussions: a survey of advantages and disadvantages compared to face-to-face discussions J. Educ. Multimedia Hypermedia, pp. 371-384 Title:School performance, social networking effects, and learning of school children: Evidence of reciprocal relationships in Abu Dhabi Author: Masood Badri,Ali Al Nuaimi,Yang Guang,Asma Al Rashedi Publication:Telematics and Informatics Publisher:Elsevier Date:December 2017 References Darko, S. (2018, February 10). Benefits and Risks of Social Media. Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/social-media-benefits-risks/
  2. O’Keeffe, G. & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011, November 4). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/ Tedeschi, B. (2009, July 5). Internet Safety for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/tips/a17843/internet-safety-for-kids/
  3. Mingle J. & Adams M. (2015, July 21). Social Media Network Participation and Academic Performance In Senior High Schools in Ghana. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3446&context=libphilprac
  4. C. Bailey, T. Talking to Your Kids About Social Media Safety. Retrieved from https://identity.utexas.edu/id-perspectives/talking-to-your-kids-about-social-media-safety Hopkins, G. (2011, August 3). Benefits of Social Media Use by Youngsters. Retrieved from http://www.positivechoices.com/series/1511
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