Social Media and Young Generation

Colonel Shiv Choudhary (Retd)
Social media is all powerful and omni present today. It influences almost everyone irrespective of locations, distances and other physical barriers in an infectious manner. It indeed validates widely accepted Maslow’s theory of motivation.The availability of numerous technologies like face book (fb), Instagram, goggle +, twitter, LinkedIn etc as gifts continue to be the main drivers of social media. Unfortunately, the impact is more negative than positive due to use, over use, misuse and incorrect use.
Actually, one is caught in the internet driven social media web today. Today, it has 2.7 billion fb users with 2.1billions using its one of the services, 1.56 billion active daily users, 1.09 billions mobile users, 76% female and 66% males users out of 100% all females and males users respectively, 300 millions photos and 293000 status uploaded daily, 83 million fake profiles, and 510,000 comments posted every second, 5 billion pieces of content shared daily, 50% of 18-24 year-olds going on fb while waking up, near 50% feeling fb is both imp and critical to their business. As per Pew Research (2015), 72 % of school and 78% of college students spend time on Fb, Instagram and Twitter daily. In fact 93% of the fb revenue comes out of its ad world only. Looks as if there are identity crises all over warranting a serious look immediately.
This reflects the reach and prowess of social media influencing young population due to freedom one gets to socialize, upload, befriend, comment, create, like and invite connections as one wishes to. All this has its serious and damaging darker side too which is a cause of attention for parents, teachers, psychologists, researchers and security experts. It invades and impacts privacy, information, internet frauds, defaming, beliefs, destruction, positivity, health, laziness, obesity, depression, drug abuse, suicide and business. However, the biggest worry of the world today is how social media is impacting the life and growth of our young generations albeit future leadership.
There is a mounting evidence of link between social media and depression amongst kids. Kids using social media are comparatively unhappy. In some cases, teenage and young adult users of these technologies have higher rate of depression from 13 to 66%. Depression amongst class eighth to 12th increased by 33 percent between 2010 to 2015 and girl’s suicide rate went up by 65 percent with student’s visits to Dr up by 33 percent.
Today young generations spend much less time in connecting personally and more in connecting electronically. Electronic connections are less emotionally satisfying and more socially isolated. A study shows that the girls, who are high users of social media with equal level of face-to-face social interaction, don’t show any increase in depressive symptoms. There are also kids who are aren’t successful in connecting with peers offline due to physical isolation or less acceptability, electronic connection can be lifesaving for them. Another study says that people socially isolated and spending more time on social media develop perceived social isolation (PSI) due to conflicting feed. The fear of not being connected or invited breeds them to fear of missing out (FOMO) and a feeling of less important.
Loss of self esteem especially by teenage girls when they compare themselves negatively with perfect looking photo shopped images of looking thinner, prettier, popular and richer is another big issue. This aspect largely leads young ones to a feeling of emptiness, anxiety, depression and worries about body image being less liked or rejected. Depression is also associated due to over social networking at the cost of minimum physical activity, learning new skills and developing talents. More the time on phone, less the time for activities to build confidence and achievements. A quick notification may give a little dopamine burst, a like, or a request. Actually, these are all addicting without being satisfying.
Concentration is disrupted while being on the home work and social media simultaneously. Students take pride in being able to multi-task at the cost of time for learning and performance. It is indeed switching back and forth with stress added cost to the brain and receding free time.
Sleep deprivation is also an ill effect of social media. 60 percent of adolescents are looking at their phones just an hour before sleep leading to an hour less sleep. Texting, sharing, trolling and scrolling are both intimidating and time consuming for teens past bedtime. Cell phones are especially risky for kids; including those with ADHD as their impulsive behavior makes them regret own posts.
Children are looking at screen when moms are sitting in front. Simply more use, more traps, a case of ‘imposter syndrome’. Stalking, trolling and being never alone are other gifts of smart phones technology. Continuous status update, locations and nonstop communication give a feeling of hyper connected with each other. The conversation never stops and when it stops, it is easy to become emotionally depleted fertile ground for anxiety to breed.
Feeling of loneliness and being ignored are depressing for kids. Absence of prompt and flattering response can be both taxing and deafening. Poor or no response can be construed as an insult for adolescent relationship. People just disappear without response. Students without phones do better on cognitive tests than those with, even if muted. We must understand that most apps and web contents are both friendly and addictive. We find youngsters restlessly reaching for the phone to scroll through the constantly updating feeds full of images, headlines, likes and jokes. Phones may be where young people are crafting their new identity with less control over their impulsiveness. Browsing becomes urgency over next day examination too.
There is misconception about multitasking involving texting, juggling or monitoring feeds simultaneously. In reality, availability of device at finger tips by 24×7 is a constant interruption leading to low performance and poor quality. ‘Resumption Lag’ and off and on tick keeps haunting students even for irrelevant feed. We tend to do without knowing anything. Problems get compounded for kids with ADHD. These children need to make smart decisions of their limited attention resources and capacity. It becomes important to set up their homework when they struggle with attention. Parents need to unplug them with the advent of new very absorbing technology.
USA Academy of Pedestrians recommends no TV exposure to infants below 18 months followed by a limited viewing of high quality programmes for an hour or so in parent’s presence. It is better to allow kids to unstructured play to learn and to make/break their own rules since apps are no substitutes for natural learning. They will move in their own pace, create, experience, practice, share and self advocate than ticking nearby mobile phones. Watch when kids between 5 to 11 are getting bad messages. Restrict screen time during dinner and bed times. In nutshell, screen watching and time should be age oriented with right value. Never ever make screen timing as an award. Curiosity is big motivator and children may stumble onto pornography. It is important to be straight and frank in talking. One needs to be friend, not a spy.
There is also a conflict with parents on what is too less or too much for to be online. An overreliance on social media can be damaging to a child’s abilities, skills, health and natural growth. It is indeed a down tick on their learning abilities and communication skills. Applications like “Rescue Time” and “Freedom” are great resources for monitoring internet usage, pack limit and blockage. We need to be aware that dangers to teenagers sharing and socializing online can be at times exaggerated.
Never ever cut kids off from their friends and innocent world because you are removing teen’s lifeline to their friends. There can be an emotional backlash, breakdown in relationship and mutual confidence. Switching off a teen’s smart phone isn’t the same as turning off the TV. Virtual communication has a positive and developmentally important role too. Social media corners are like malls for children to hang out unchecked for free interaction with others. Give them the requite space.
There is a need for parents to help kids resist the pressure created by artfully created social media feeds like Great, so cute, smart, pretty, tasty, nice, tc, cheers, pretty girl, cute cat, lovely, awesome etc, all restricted to just 500 words. Children and some parents perceive these words as factual. In fact, it also gives a feeling of self struggling called “duck syndrome” ie looking happy, despite being unhappy. Similarly for kids experiencing anxiety or depression, carefully edited feeds can act as a smoke screen to confuse the need for help. It is both an unavoidable sin and a dangerous validation.
There are always ways out to control such an influence affecting a complete young generation? We must find one even if it is not visualized. Incidentally, way out and controls are very complicated. Parents need to be diligent in giving a dose of reality for healthy behaviors. The strong power of visual image is both powerful and disorienting demanding no prompt dismissal of teen’s experience and narrations. Advising teens to explore social media in a more critical ways for reality check.
If you see your child over wrapped in social media, try taking a social holiday. Practice what you preach and pledge to stay offline yourself. At times it may be hard for parents to unplug kids. Don’t rely upon social media to gauge what and how children are doing. Smiling selfies and rejoicing posts are not always true. Keep an eye on symbols of negativity. Make sure kids are engaging in during offline without any trickling of notifications. Guard against apps developer for their systems to glue more people. Set quality time, phone free meals, bed room, family interaction and weekends. May use a device, Sprint’s “WeGo” for children between 5 to 12 years.
It will be advisable to fix amt for data limits and apps use duly pass worded. Kids should be used to seeing our faces, not conversation with their heads over a screen. May set timing before kids get up to check important mails or notifications. Ensure no texting or use of phones in the car or family gathering.
One is well aware of allegation of US citizens against USSR on tampering, misinformation and foreign interference post win of President Trump. Indian elections have been free from any such incidents, yet the government was concerned about past remarks by right wing people about Cambridge Analytica to have once worked for election campaign. Fb has now deployed 60 researchers to study extent and impact on privacy-protected data. Google and Fb has established new policies regulating political advertisements in India. News channel or print media, they have a battle in hand to compete, break news, generate revenue, enhance TRP and survive leading to impacting everyone.
It is very challenging to decide when a child should have a phone. Age around 10 to 12, travelling durability, habits, need for texting and nature of location should set the right time. Cost, data pack, handling, security, cyber bullying, damage, getting hurt, discipline and checking out should form important checks since solely age has no co-relation. The technology and influence are far too infectious and aggressive and it is for the responsible parents and society to protect their children for a happy and healthy new generation.>


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