Social networking is the most important tool in modern day communication and advertising. One such great social media is Facebook that has numerous subscribers worldwide. However, the question that needs to be answered concerning the social networking is the required subscription age. This essay is mainly going to reflect on the negative effect of Facebook on children but also acknowledges some of the positive aspects associated with Facebook.
Positive effects of Facebook on children
Facebook as platform has very many applications which can enable a child to interact with his/her peers as well as developing technical skills. Through Facebook blogs, teenagers may discover opportunities in community projects or activities which may in turn assist them to discover new potential and identity.
The cost of travelling is very high. Therefore, travelling from one place to another with children to visit friends or relatives is becoming uneconomical. Facebook has provided a solution this problem through live chatting, photo exchange and videos. Thus facebook has provided a good substitute for which children can interact with their peers and friends – regardless of the distance- at a minimum cost.
Negative effects of Facebook on children
Facebook comes with a full package of games, group invitations, multiple friends request, videos and other applications that keeps the user entertained as he or she is in the network. Ritualistic involvement and Periodic usage of such applications leads to social networking addiction.
This creates obsession and thus deprives an individual of the normal and real life. This is dangerous to a growing child as it denies him/her the privilege of coming face to face with person. Moreover, such addiction interferes with a child’s study or school life. This mostly happens when children opt to Facebook instead of studying. Reduced study time and concentration in school work leads to persistently poor grades and loss of interest in formal education.
In normal conversations or dialogues, an individual can say one thing but the tone of voice or body expression incorporated with the statements may actually alter the enter meaning of the words. However, Facebook involves mainly the use of text and graphics to communicate; it therefore lessens a child’s time for social interaction and renders the child out of place in practical verbal communications and social skills.
Therefore as a child grows, based on Facebook mode of communication, he/she will never have the opportunity to practically learn how to interpret facial expressions, body language and emotions. This can be damaging to real life relationship between the child and the parents or greater society at large.
Facebook uses all forms of languages and expressions that are efficient and effective to users. For example, use of initials like ‘LOL’ to mean ‘lots of love’ to a particular group and something else to a different group. However, such form of language is not standard or universal hence considered group specific.
In case the parents decide to move from a different environmental setting, children adapted to one particular type of communication may find it extremely difficult to integrate with children in the new environment. Therefore, such code language or slung affects social accommodation and assimilation of children in different localities.
There are millions of users on Facebook who login or upload materials at given time. Despite the measures in place, such large numbers of persons and uploaded materials are not easily manageable.
A child using Facebook is therefore exposed to all kinds of information. Unlike an adult, a child lacks the required experience and self control and hence cannot be in a position properly evaluate or discriminate between useful and harmful information. Furthermore, most children or minors using Facebook are on the experimental age, 11-15 years, and with the socially hidden nature of sexuality, any information regarding sexuality is considered to be the gospel truth.
Hence, children exposed to sexually inappropriate content and alcoholism or drugs through videos, pictures and messages or comments attached to such contents result in practicing what they see. As a consequence of such exposure, early involvement in teenage sexual activities, teen pregnancy, and teenage drug and alcohol use and abuse have increased.
Long hours of social networking daily, without exercise, will result in gaining weight or being overweight. Moreover, through Facebook children do encounter images or videos of famous person especially movie stars whom they would try as much as possible to associate with them in personality and appearance.
These forms the acceptable standards and every child Facebook members affirm to. However, this can lead to narcissistic personality disorders – where children feel their appearance is inadequate or unacceptable to others. For example, female teenagers who are perceived to be fat are considered less beautiful or male teenagers who don’t dress in a certain mannerism are not ‘cool’.
This can leads to anxiety, paranoia and depression amongst children, especially teenagers. Most children will therefore resort to hide from their friends or peers when they feel inadequate while others would starve themselves in order to attain the so called ‘ approved body figure’. This is a form of psychosocial imprisonment which is created by the social media kills the socialization process in early stages of life.
Mary was a 14 year old girl who died and was buried in December 2009. Her death was neither caused by a road accident nor a disease. She committed suicide. Her mother, Anne, narrates that her daughter’s death resulted from taking wrong information and advice from friends in facebook.
Mary had an outstanding record in school. She could be described as an “A” student. At the end of the academic term, she had a mean score of 87% and topped her class. As means of appreciation for the work well done, her father bought her a Toshiba Tecra M3 laptop computer. It was Mary’s first computer and she could hide the joy of owning a computer.
A few months later, she became very secluded. Mostly, she was connecting privately with her friends on Facebook. She no longer consulted her mother or her father with any issues as before. Any information she needed, she got online. Anne confesses that, “provided Mary’s grades were excellent in school, we did not care so much on what our daughter did privately in her room.”
Mary had attended a friend’s party. In the party access to alcohol was not an issue. Overwhelmed with curiosity, Mary had a glass of liquor. In no time she was high. She stripped and danced in her undergarments at the party. The thrilled audience cheered her up. Three days later, she happened to find her video posted on facebook blog. It had erotic and abusive comments.
Someone must have had taped her secretly and uploaded the video in facebook. Considering Mary’s age, such information was too much for her to handle. She committed suicide by taking an overdose. The idea of committing such an act was a friend’s advice from facebook.
Social networks are good sites for interacting or socialization. However, at an early age they cause more harm than good to children. This is because most of the content posted in the network at any given time are adult oriented and is not filtered. Moreover, parents lack the capability to control the content that is posted on the network at any given time Therefore, children should not be allowed as they lack the capacity to discriminate between what is good and bad.