The Impact of Social Media on Youth

1252 words | 5 page(s)

Social media is known as one of the most impacting contemporary innovations. It enables people to share all sorts of personal information, including photos, videos, thoughts, files, and even locations. People and especially young people use social media to improve the educational experience. For instance, sharing books, useful links, videos, photos, or other audio-visual materials helps students to enhance their level of academic achievement. Social media also ensures greater socialization.

In the recent years, globalization has growth to immense proportion due to increased significance of social media among youth. Now people can get in touch with individuals living halfway around the world. Young people are more aware of other cultures even if they have never had a chance to communicate with people of different cultural backgrounds. Such people are more tolerant to minorities. These great benefits are commonly known today since social media has become an indispensable part of people`s being. Although social media brings about many opportunities for youth, it can also make an adversary impact on their development. Social media exposes vulnerable young people to violence or cyber-bullying, making adversary impacts on their health, well-being, and further development.

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Recent research on social media impact has discovered that social networks stimulate aggressive behaviors in students aged between 12-18 years. One of the major concerns regarding social media use is cyber-bullying. This term is relatively new and is referred to as aggressiveness or bullying in social networks. Unlike real-life bullying, cyber-bullying is almost impossible to escape. It has an almost unlimited audience and almost no chances to be forgotten since social media enables sharing materials, leaving comments, and spreading offensive content so quickly that special agencies cannot stop it. Although cyber-bullying is very similar to real-life bullying, its adversary impacts are much stronger and more difficult to cope with.

Among teenagers, cyber-bullying has various forms. On the average, up to 30% of teenagers aged between 11 and 17 years old have undergone cyber-bullying. Rumor spreading makes up approximately 13% of all cases, aggressive or threatening comments constitute 14%, while nasty comments make up almost 32% (Patton, Hong, Ranney, Patel, Kelley, Eschmann, and Washington 2014). Evidently, social media use has not only enabled quicker socialization but also made youth more vulnerable to online victimization.

The rise of this concern has initiated further research in order to define what groups of people are at risk of being exposed to cyber-bullying. Jaffer and Brazeau (2012) specify that the most vulnerable groups are those who do not correspond to the cultural norms of the society. Steckley and Letts (2013) define that culture is a set of beliefs, attitudes, and values practiced by the groups. The majorities create the so-called dominating culture (a culture which imposes its values and behavioral patterns to minorities) may consider alternative practices as a violation of their norms and react aggressively.

In this context, social media platforms can be used to practice cyber-bullying forcing the minority groups to comply with dominating culture. The authors also see social media as a source of socialization which is as equal as the communication with peer groups. So, social media is viewed as a primary platform for cyber-bullying.

Jaffer and Brazeau (2012) enumerate the groups that are at a greater risk of being bullied. Among them, there are those who do not correspond to the cultural norms of the majorities. For instance, the authors state that sexual orientation may underpin cyber-bullying through social media platforms. So, people identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual belong to the first at-risk group. People with disabilities make the second group. Overweight and obese people are at risk of being cyber-bullied, especially among teenagers. In other words, individuals who are perceived different based on their culture, ethnicity, race, sexual identification, weight, height, appearance, identity, socioeconomic status, or religion, can become the victims of cyber-bullying. The prevailing homophobia, sexism, racism, or other existing forms of marginalization are the reason to initiate cyber-bullying.

Patton, et al. (2014) note that 25% of cyber-bullying takes place in the chat rooms, while 23% occur on the website. In most cases, the victims of cyber-bullying could not identify their harassers. The research shows that social media does not only make a cyber-bullying based on cultural differences a commonplace but also endangers all the young people who do not have appearance or habits corresponding to the existing norms.

Sexual Risk Behaviors
Social media has enabled young people to upload and share the photos and videos containing information about their private life. For instance, more and more profiles with photos of young girls demonstrating their sexuality to find romantic relationships are occurring today. Due to lack of parental control and unawareness of the potential consequences, many young girls (aged 13-16 years) add the photos which stress their sexual appearance. This type of behavior increases the risks of being cyber-bullied or exposed to sexual violence both online or in real-life situations (Patton, et al. 2014).

The Relation between Cyber-Bullying and Health, Well-Being, and Suicidal Thoughts.
Of course, cyber-bullying taking place in the social network has an adversary psychological impact on young people. Jaffer and Brazeau (2012) state that according to the questionnaire, teenagers who have been exposed to cyber-bullying has less interest in living, feel depressed and think that they are not liked or appreciated by others. Some of the victims even fail to forge the relationships afterward. They feel lonely and helpless and need professional intervention to recover. Moreover, children who have been victims of cyber-bullying learn to use aggression as a main protective mechanism to build relationships with peers. Cyber-bullying at school-aged children or university or college students makes adversary impact on their adult life. Such people are usually reserved and are not able to build a trustful relationship with others.

Those individuals who suffer from long-lasting cyber-bullying, tend to have suicidal thoughts or even make attempts to commit suicide, and many of those attempts are successful. Suicide in Canada remains one of the most serious public health issues. It is the second-leading death cause for Canadian teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years old. Among young Inuit and the youth of Canada`s First Nations, suicide is a desperate problem. However, these are not the only at-risk groups who can commit suicide due to social exclusion. LGBTQ young people, being rejected by their family members, are also at the high risk of intentionally injuring themselves (Jaffer and Brazeau 2012). Cyber-bullying may trigger suicidal attempts among the Canadian vulnerable groups. Due to the increased number of suicidal cases across the country, media has initiated the research to prove the correlation between cyber-bullying and at-risk groups` attempts. The results have proved that cyber-bullying is a contributing factor. The consequences of ignorance can be devastating because schools and universities contain the greatest percentage of at-risk young individuals.

In closing, social media does not only provide young people with educational opportunities but also jeopardizes their well-being. Cyber-bullying is one of the major concerns in Canada. Any teenager labeled as different can be exposed to cyber-bullying. Such type of bullying has far more adversary effects on their well-being than real-life bullying which at least can be escaped. Cyber-bullying has been proved to be a contributing factor in Canadian high suicide rates among school-aged children or university students.

  • Jaffer, Mobina, and Patrick Brazeau. 2012. “Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age.”The Senate of Canada.
  • Patton, Desmond, et al. 2014. “Social Media as a Vector for Youth Violence: A Review of the Literature.” Computers In Human Behavior, 35: 548-553.
  • Steckley, John, and Guy Kirby Letts. 2013. Elements of Sociology: A Critical Canadian Introduction. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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