Social networking is becoming more popular in society today – according to the article, “The 10 Best and Worst Ways Social Media Impacts Education” by Jeff Dunn, “Facebook alone has over 500 million users.” I believe social networking has both negative and positive impacts on society. I will discuss how these impacts affect teenagers, especially students, from a variety of different perspectives. I will also explore strategies that we as a community and educational institutions can put into practice in order to address the negative impacts.
Social networking has the potential of negatively impacting teenagers – specifically students in their schoolwork. They are easily distracted by social networking websites and thus spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, etc. than doing their homework. A study done by Ohio State University in the article, “Social Networking has its Negative Effects”, studies the relationship between Facebook use and peers’ GPA and study habits. The results showed Facebook users who spent only one to five hours a week studying had reduced academic performance (GPAs of 3.0 to 3.5) compared to non-users who studied 11-15 hours per week and had GPAs of 3.5 – 4.0.
Social networking has also made it possible with unlimited resources for students to be lazy and unable to critically think for themselves – they just get the ideas from someone else so they don’t have to have their own ideas. According to Edward De Bono in the article, “Edward De Bono Says Social Media makes us Lazy and Stupid”. I can relate to this because back in middle and high school I would use SparkNotes (an online study guide with short summaries on literature) instead of reading the whole book myself. This was a much faster way to get the assignments done and much easier to use their ideas instead of my own.
Shifting away from negative impacts on schoolwork, another troubling impact social networking has on society is the fact that people are replacing human interaction with online interactions. In other words, People are more concerned with keeping non meaningful relationships on social networking sites than their real in – person relationships. Steven Strogatz, a professor at Cornell University in the article, “Social Not-Working: The Perils of Too Much Communication”, by Tim Jarvis, stated “the distinction between genuine friends and acquaintances is becoming blurred. Users are spending time maintaining relationships with people they don’t really care about.” This is because students are spending so much on social websites, so they have less time for real face-to-face communication and socializing with their real friends – they are becoming less able to effectively communicate in person (Dunn, 2011).
Yet another disturbing reality with social networking and teenagers today is “cyberbullying.” According to the article “Protecting Kids from Cyberbullying” on the pbs website, Cyberbullying “is like playground bullying, but it’s done either online or with cell phones. It can take the form of individual harassment, public humiliation, or both.” According to the same website, one in three kids have been cyberbullied. A sad case story demonstrating the power and danger of cyberbullying on social networking websites is the case of 13-year-old, Megan Meier, who hanged herself after being cyberbullied on MySpace by Josh Evans—not a real boy, but a creation of neighbors (Jarvis, 2012). I have included a CNN video on this story as well.
One final negative impact social networking can have on society is “the degree to which private information is available online and the anonymity the internet seems to provide has made students forget the need to filter the information they post” (Dunn, 2011). Teens don’t seem to realize the Internet is public and permanent – they are leaving a “digital footprint”. “Many colleges and potential employers investigate an applicant’s social networking profiles before granting acceptance or interviews. Most students don’t constantly evaluate the content they’re publishing online, which can bring about negative consequences months or years down the road” (Dunn, 2011). I have included a CBS video originally from the ProCon.org website on the digital footprint and its negative consequences. In my opinion, I also think teens need to be careful with what they post because of sexual predators – you never know who is on the other end and who is seeing your posts. For example, I know that Facebook has a “location application” that, if you allow it, lets people know where you are when you post a status or make a comment. This makes it easy for the wrong people to find you. Overall, they need to be smart about what they post and practice general Internet safety by realizing it is a public and permanent place.
Strategies to Address the Negatives
There are several strategies parents, students, and even educational institutions can take to address these negative impacts. Parents can monitor their kids access to social media by reducing the amount of time spent on social network sites and know what they’re doing online. They should also pay attention to their academic progress and provide enough time for face-to-face social interaction instead of always online (Dunn, 2011). If these measures are taken, teenagers can learn to combat the negative aspects of social networking. I also think in my own opinion, parents need to educate themselves and their teenagers on how to be safe on the Internet and be aware of the dangers of cyberbullying – know what to do in these situations. Teenagers need to educate themselves on what is appropriate online behavior – they need to realize that the Internet is permanent – think before they post because what they post online could potentially affect them in the future with employers who can look up information on them.
Along with all the negative impacts of social networking, there are many positive impacts as well. According to the “Social Networking” page on the ProCon.org website, social networking websites allow for people to create new relationships and keep in touch with friends and family who may be far away. “Increased communication, even online, strengthens relationships.” I definitely agree with this because I use Facebook to keep in contact with not only my friends I see everyday, but it also makes it possible to maintain the relationships I made with people in Tanzania over the summer. Without Facebook, I wouldn’t be able keep in touch with them because they are so far away.
Another positive impact according to the same website is they allow for creative expression. They provide “free messaging, blogging, photo storage, games, event invitations, and many other services to anyone with access to a computer and the Internet.” Many of my friends use Facebook, Tumblr, and blogging websites to to voice their opinion or simply express themselves in a creative way – social networking websites make this all possible.
Another interesting positive impact is how social networking websites can be a powerful tool for social change and potentially start a movement because of their ability to bring people with common interests together (according to the same website). For example, the website talks about how during the protests of the Iranian election in June 2009, protestors used Twitter to circumvent government control over phones and the media. “Twitter was so important that the US State Department asked Twitter to delay a network upgrade that would have taken the website offline at a busy time of day in Iran.” I have included a CNN video originally from the ProCon.org website that talks about this.
One final positive impact of social networking is the benefits it provides in education. According to the same website, 59% of students report that they use social networking sites to discuss educational topics including career and college planning, and 50% use the sites for school assignments. Parents and teachers even say using these sites helps students improve their reading, writing, communication, and conflict resolution skills, and learn to express themselves more clearly and how to work well in groups. Additionally, by spending so much time working with new technologies, students develop more familiarity with computers and other electronic devices which are helpful tools they can use throughout their lives. These developed skills are necessary and especially helpful when developing a career. (Dunn, 2011).
Overall, social networking websites has their negative impacts on society – but there are measures and strategies we can take as a community to address them so we can still take advantage of the benefits they have to offer us as well.
- “The 10 Best and Worst Ways Social Media Impacts Education” – Jeff Dunn (2011)
- “Social Networking has its Negative Effects”
- “Edward De Bono Says Social Media makes us Lazy and Stupid”
- “Social Not-Working: The Perils of Too Much Communication” – Tim Jarvis (2012)
- PBS website: “Protecting Kids from Cyberbullying”
- CBS Digital Footprint Video
- CNN Video on Twitter playing a big role in the Iran unrest
- CNN Video on Megan Meier’s cyberbullying story