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New media has tranced the teens

Jan 25, 2014 : 21:08 IST
Teen life has become way too delicate today. The current teenagers’ exposure to social media is largely unregulated, and their behaviour reflects its content, observes Anjana Thadhani.

You will rarely find anyone who isn’t familiar with Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, or Google Plus. There is a considerable increase in the rate of teenagers on social networking websites, chatting, sharing, liking or commenting on pictures. With the advent of smart phones and high standard of living, the number of children who own a smart phone with internet access is increasing rapidly.

The impact

Easy accessibility and popularity among youngsters makes social media an ideal choice for learning and active exchange of ideas across the globe. Social media excited the adults equally till everyone noticed the “time displacement” effects it has. There is the risk of it displacing other activities in which the child might engage. It could replace the child’s reading habits, athletic involvement, and direct social interaction. Internet addiction, obesity, and concurrent sleep deprivation are two most major issues that need addressing. As against mass media, the parental control is very limited in social media.

Grave dangers

Of grave concern is the relationship between violence portrayed on social media and an increase in violent behaviour and aggression by children. Social media exposes children to both natural and unnatural adult sexual behaviours in ways that portray these actions as normal and risk-free, sending the message that because these behaviours are frequent, ‘everybody does it’. However sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy are rarely mentioned. Other problems faced are cyber-bullying, harassment and sexting (sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images via cell phone, computer, or other digital devices).

Behaviour stimuli

An individual child’s developmental level is a critical factor in determining whether the medium will have positive or negative effects. Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media.

Exposure to media leads to arousal processes and immediate mimicking of specific behaviours. A stimulus that arouses an emotion immediately following an exciting media presentation could also cause more aggressive responses to later provocation.

Seeds of disaster

Observation of specific social behaviours around them increases the likelihood of children behaving exactly that way. During childhood, children encode in memory social scripts that guide their behaviour through observation of family, peers, community, and mass media. Consequently observed behaviours can be imitated long after they are observed. As children mature further, their beliefs about what social behaviours are appropriate become crystallized and habitual, and later a part of their personality. Aggressive children tend to become aggressive adults and display irresponsibility.

Control and monitor

The most important question is how to regulate and monitor the use and content of social media. Parents also need to update themselves about the many technologies their kids are using. Parents can use internet safety tools to limit access to content and websites and provide a report of internet activities. Make sure your children understand what personal information they should not give over the Internet.

Parents should encourage their children to tell them if something or someone online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention. Praise them for it.

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