In May 2013, 12-year-old Gabrielle Molina was found dead Wednesday afternoon by her family (Boyette, 2013).. In September 2012, 15-year-old Audrie Pott was sexually assaulted by three boys, who later posted pictures of the attack online- leading to her suicide (Giammona, 2013); both of these suicides caused by cyber-bullying, which is common among teens. A study in Britain revealed that at least half of suicides among young people are associated with bullying (“Bullying Statistics”, 2009). Though social networking has many positive effects in society, it has more negative consequences, especially upon teenagers, such as cyber-bullying, negative influences on social behavior, and the promotions of crime and violence. When used responsibly, social networking is efficient, fun, and useful. Unfortunately, teenagers in today’s society misuse social networks- causing social networking become dangerous and psychologically harmful.
Cyber-bullying is the most common negative effect of social networking. More than one in three teens has experienced cyber-threats online according to a study done by The “Bullying Statistics” (2009). According to psychologist Anthony Pellegrini, Bullying is a precise method of aggression and one that is used intentionally to secure resources such as friends, self-esteem, and self-worth. About one in five teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others. Teens take and send these sexually suggestive pictures without thinking of the consequences and how cyber-bullying can affect them, leaving young women more likely to be negatively affected by posts they have seen on social networks. In fact, 34% of 16-25-year-olds in the UK say they have experienced depression as a result of something they have seen on a social networking site (Nelson, 2013). In some cases cyber-bullying can lead the victim to think there is no other way out than to take their own lives. According to studies done by The “Bullying Statistics” (2009) suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the Center for Disease Control. For every suicide among teens, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 % of high school students have considered suicide, and almost seven percent have attempted it. According to statistics reported by ABC News, about 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 teens stay home from school every day due to their fear of bullying. Parents often neglect to speak to their children, and when their children decide to finally speak up it is often too late. The statistics of cyber-bullying and what effect they have on teens are real and only growing with time.
Though there are many negative effects of social networking there are also a few positive effects that may come with social networking. A main positive form of social networking includes education, when using the proper form of research; teens can have access to many educational sites, making it easier to do research for school or home. Social networking can offer the necessary resources for teaching in compelling ways that engage students. Also, social networking helps people communicate; everyone can communicate more efficiently to family members or friends across the world. A main benefit to social networking is the ability to express a person’s feelings with websites such as Tumblr, YouTube, or FaceBook teenagers are allowed to freely express themselves, relieve stress by listening to music, or blogging. Along with the pros there are cons, and in fact, the cons outweigh the pros. A very important negative effect is the influences; social networks are very powerful toward teens. The hardest part of being a teenager is figuring out who you are, and social media today tends to send out the wrong impression to teens, making girls believe the definition of beautiful is being unhealthily thin rather than fit and healthy, and boys think that committing crimes, dressing inappropriately, and drugs are deemed “cool” among society. Social networking also causes teens to have trouble developing social skills. Researchers believe that it is due mainly because teens today interact more through social networks rather than in person and face to face, so they don’t have to use proper social skills that are needed to have conversations. “While nobody can deny that Facebook has altered the landscape of social interaction, particularly among young people, we are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and the negatives,” said Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Another important negative effect social networking is the crime and violence it initiates. Young people from ages 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault and teenagers from the ages 18 to 19 are more likely to be stalked. Social networks and media often show acts of violence and crime, which greatly influence teens that are still trying to figure out who they are and developing psychologically. Teens often see or post acts of violence on social networks themselves, such as fight videos or pictures on YouTube and Facebook, thinking it is okay, this only encourages more teens to do the same and contribute to something they believe is “cool”. One teen may post a video of themselves fighting, causing another person to fight for attention or some sort of respect they believe will last a lifetime, when in reality their “fame” will die down. Teens also post personal information about what they do and where they live; this only make them an easier target to stalk and predators.
In order to make social networking safer, teens should post only what they are comfortable with other people seeing and can still keep them safe. Teens should be encouraged to think about what they post online, such as the language they use, their pictures, videos, statuses, and information. Truly consider what information should stay private and what information is acceptable to share. Once something is posted online, it is hard to take it back and will most likely stay there forever. Next, do not imitate or impersonate someone else or create a profile as someone that is not you. Also, think about who you are talking to, and be aware that if you have yet to meet someone in person they may not be who they say they are. Lastly, use privacy settings, not all information should be shared, it is best to have as much control over who sees certain information and who does not. Social networking sites have privacy settings, so you can limit who has access to your profile as well as what they may or may not see. Only allow people whom you feel comfortable and safe to see what you or your child may post, you
many never know who is looking. Many adults think of social networking as something completely positive- allowing children to have them at such a young age while overlooking the amount of teens who are often bullied to the point where they think the only way out is by taking their own life. Teens misuse and abuse social networks, posting inappropriate or personal statuses, pictures, and videos online for the world to see, exposing themselves to things they are not mentally ready to endure, and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to the bullying and violence that may result. They allow the things that social media deems appropriate and “cool” to shape who they wish to become. Social networking can be useful, entertaining, and efficient- when in the right hands and under the right circumstance, so it is important to remember to speak to your children about social networking and how to prevent incidents such as cyber-bullying and the spread of personal and sexually suggestive or nude pictures. Most of the time, however, social networking is more dangerous and harmful to teens, rather than beneficial and constructive.
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