The internet has brought with it social media networks, which have increased young people’s engagement. According to Collin, Rahilly, Richardson, and Third (2011), Australians are the most active social media users. As a result, it’s essential to figure out how social media affects young people. This essay argues that although social media provides significant benefits to users, it also presents significant challenges that should be considered. Although social media helps improve relationships and provide learning opportunities, it negatively affects young people’s self-esteem and personal growth. Social media strengthen young people’s relationships with their friends and family members. The Australian Psychological Society (2015) points out that teens that use social media heavily feel their relationships have strengthened and they also derive a sense of belonging to the global community. These sentiments are supported by Bourgeois, Bower, & Carroll (2014) who note that social networking sites provide young people with a safe haven for engagement in meaningful discussions. These interactions increase their feelings of interconnectedness. In addition, given that the online communications are done with people they already know off line, they complement everyday conversations (Green, Brady, Olaffson, Hartley, & Lumby, 2011). Despite these benefits, social media can propagate victimisation that is carried out off line since most of the cases of online bullying, as noted by Bourgeois et al. (2014), are done by peers who already know each other.
Another benefit that young people get from using social networking sites is the opportunity for skill development and learning. According to Collin, Rahilly, Richardson, & Third (2011), social networking sites can facilitate skills development and learning outside the formal educational environment. This opinion is supported by Rice, Haynes, Royce, & Thompson (2016) who note that social media is used by indigenous Australians to transmit intergenerational knowledge, which helps in the reconnection between young and old indigenous people. In addition, through social media, teens are able to receive information on sensitive topics such as sexual health (Wong, Merchant, & Moreno, 2014). The anonymity of exploring these topics appeals to young people and gives them the opportunity to learn important information on sensitive topics. Although it provides an avenue where users can derive important knowledge and skills, the prevalence of fake news is cause for concern. According to Stromer-Galley (2016), some of the information and news on Facebook are fake. Therefore, users are exposed to incorrect information.
Despite social media having the above benefits, the self-esteem and personal development of young people can be severely affected by their use. As informed by Pangrazio (2013), there is evidence of an elevated bullying and judgemental behaviour on Facebook. Also, Rice et al. (2016) show that indigenous young people experience regular racism online. Social media also impacts body image of participants. According to Flaxman, Skattebol, Bedford, & Valentine (2012), social media users experience humiliation when they see image based teasing. These aspects can negatively affect the self-esteem and personal development of young people. However, parents can play a huge role in cyber-safety education and reduce the negative consequences of social media use.
In conclusion, while social media provides young people with a number of benefits, there are challenges causing concern. Through social media, young people can strengthen their relationships with family members as well as peers. Social media also provide users with an opportunity to gain important knowledge and skills. However, despite deriving these benefits, social media users can fall victims of victimisation, which can negatively affect self-esteem and personal development.
Australian Psychological Society. (2015). Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015. Retrieved from Australian Psychological Society (APS): https://www.psychology.org.au/psychologyweek/survey/
Bourgeois, A., Bower, J., & Carroll, A. (2014). Social networking and the social and emotional wellbeing of adolescents in Australia. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 24 (2), 167-182.
Collin, P., Rahilly, K., Richardson, I., & Third, A. (2011). The benefits of social networking services: A literature review. (Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Technology and Wellbeing.) Retrieved from http://www.uws.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/476337/The-Benefits-of-Social-Networking-Services.pdf
Flaxman, S., Skattebol, J., Bedford, M., & Valentine, K. (2012). Body image and disadvantaged/vulnerable youth, final report. National Youth Affairs Research Scheme, Commonwealth of Australia.
Green, L., Brady, D., Olaffson, K., Hartley, J., & Lumby, C. (2011). Risks and safety for Australian children on the internet: full findings from the AU Kids Online survey of 9-16 year olds and their parents. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ecuworks2011/2/
Pangrazio, L. (2013). Young people and Facebook: What are the challenges to adopting a critical engagement? Digital Culture & Education, 5 (1), 34-47.
Rice, E., Haynes, E., Royce, P., & Thompson, S. (2016). Social media and digital technology use among indigenous young people in Australia: A literature review. International Journal for Equity in Health, 15, 1-16.
Stromer-Galley, J. (2016, December 3). Three ways Facebook could reduce fake news without resorting to censorship. Retrieved from The Conversation: http://theconversation.com/three-ways-facebook-could-reduce-fake-news-without-resorting-to-censorship-69033
Wong, C., Merchant, R., & Moreno, M. (2014). Using social media to engage adolescents and young adults with their health. Healthcare , 2 (4), 220-224.