Kids and teenagers today have grown up in a world where “Google” is actually an official word in the dictionary. They’ve been online since the day they were born and they can’t imagine a world without Facebook. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 22 percent of teens access their social media site more than 10 times a day, over 50 percent access more than once a day. These social media sites allow anyone to post personal updates, photos, videos and share information with anyone and everyone.
The negative effects of being “plugged in” are starting to take enormous effect on kids. As children are receiving more social interaction through online activities rather than face to face, American youth are showing an increasing lack of social skills. Children and teens are often more comfortable with technology than they are with talking to people. They haven’t learned conversation skills, how to deal with interpersonal situations and how to date, how to talk to adults or peers without the screen. This leads to slower language development, a decrease in literacy, vocabulary, and cognitive development.
In addition to affecting social and communication skills, an overload of social media has already begun to lead to an overload of bullying. While social media can provide another avenue to make friends and socialize, more often online networking provides a negative source of rejection, cruelty and bullying. In a 2005 U.C.L.A. study, 41 percent of teens reported between one and three online bullying incidents over a one-year time period. Today, 80 percent of teens say they have been involved in some form of cyber bullying as a victim, a bully or a bystander. That means cyber bullying has nearly doubled in the last six years. It is becoming so common that many teens say it is a normal part of their lives and there is nothing they can do about it.
The internet gives kids the illusion of being invisible. They think it is unlikely that they will get caught so it’s OK to say or do whatever they want because they don’t immediately see or hear results of their attacks. What makes cyber bullying so much more hurtful is that it is public and long-lasting on the web, resulting in long-term pain and humiliation.
In addition to blatant attacks, social media sites can be a never-ending source of the message
“you’re not good enough.” Youth constantly and silently compare everything from their looks and clothing to their families and socio-economic status to those around them. Social media provides them another way to do this, which can lead to a constant sense of rejection and an ever decreasing self-esteem.
The more time that youth spend online, the more likely they are to suffer these ill-effects. Whether they are being bullied, or becoming a bully, extensive time online can impact every teen in a negative way. There is even a diagnosis becoming more popular known as, “Facebook Depression,” where teenagers actually develop depression in connection with the amount of time they spend online. It is important to keep children and teens in the real world, not the virtual world. Parents need to disconnect, unplug, keep their kids connected socially to decrease bullying and depression and allow for a sense of balance to create well-rounded youth in the technology age.