The first thing that an individual becomes aware of when setting out to research on the impact of social media on teenagers is that the general attitude toward the subject is a negative one. On searching the words “teenager” and “social media” on the internet, most of the headings that emerge have a negative connotation. Many articles discuss the negative impacts of social media on children and society in which they live, while others are cases of crimes committed by teens through social media.
There are several claims that support the positive correlation between the two, but even some of these show that writers are coming from a background where they had assumed the converse was true (O’Keeffe, and Clarke-Pearson 34). The objective of this paper is to discuss the various arguments that have been propounded on the matter, and attempt to persuade the reader that the claim that social media are good for teenagers is not entirely unfounded, but could very well be an accurate description of the reality.
In view of the negative sentiment on the topic, the first step of this discussion is to address the concerns and views of those who view social networking as a negative factor and a threat to the social lives of teens and the community. Social media are “creating a uniquely shallow and trivial culture, making kids unable to socialize face-to-face” (O’Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 65).
These sentiments have been echoed by millions of parents worldwide who feel that their children risk losing their social skills and capacity for understanding various issues because of social media. Strasburger, a scientific writer, proposes that the current generation is typified by a hedonistic approach to life, disregarding “what is assumed to be the real world and becoming centered around a moment of computer generated thrills” (Strasburger 34).
While admitting that the author’s concerns cannot be ignored or dismissed, it is worth to note that they are only sinister when examined from a theoretical point of view. In reality, teenagers, despite spending a great deal of time on social networks, do not necessarily lose their social skills. In fact, quite to the contrary, they may improve them (Singer and Singer 98).
Social networks have emerged as necessary tools for fostering communication in a digital world. They are products of technological innovations in information technology that are combined with the culture of globalization. In fact, predictions show that more benefits will be brought about by the rapid advancements in the field of information technology in the future.
Without social networks, the concept of a global village would remain largely a fanciful cliché to those who cannot afford to take a 9-hour flight or make long distance calls across continents. Through online chat rooms, teenagers can literary engage in discussions with their peers across the globe. Given that this is the world in which teenagers were born, expecting them to socialize like people in the preceding generations is both impractical and retrogressive.
O’Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson (17) argue that “social media are very useful since they make teenagers express their issues. The authors cite a case where a Christian motivational speaker said in a high school that “datable girls know how to shut up” (O’Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 78). Teenage girls used social media platforms to castigate the overt sexism and air their views on the subject. By so doing, they empowered themselves.
A study by Common Sense Media, a child advocacy group, found that one out of every five teenagers finds that social media platforms make him or her more confident compared with a mere 4% of teens who claimed that they made them feel less social. Additionally, over 1,000 teens were surveyed and 28% of them said that social networks made them feel more outgoing, while others (29%) claimed that they reduced their shyness (Madden et al. 250).
Evidently, social media, contrary to popular belief, do not negatively influence the social skills of teenagers. The fact that they spend time communicating on their cell phones and updating their online accounts does not make them less capable of face-to-face interactions.
In the modern era, social networking sites spread information faster than others forms of media and, through them, teens can keep themselves informed about various things happening around their world (Lenhart et al. 90). In addition, by virtue of being fundamentally collective, social networks connect people at various levels and actually boost their interactions (Madden et al. 251).
When people criticize social networks, they tend to ask leading questions and make “loaded” statements. Normally, someone would ask a teenager how many hours he or she spends on social media or how many texts he or she sends in a day. However, a more objective approach would be asking how many people teenagers have communicated with on the internet.
Ironically, given the antisocial epithets ascribed to social media among teens, they communicate and interact with more people than many adults who do not use social media (Madden et al. 253). At the end of the day, tweeting teenagers may actually know more about the world they live in than their conservative parents may. Teens have a chance to stay in touch with their friends from as far back as primary schools and they can maintain these ties through social media platforms for the rest of their lives.
The same cannot be said for their parents, many of whom have virtually no connections whatsoever with friends with whom they are not in constant touch. In learning institutions, social networks help children improve their grades since they can use social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, to discuss various topics. Some schools, such as “George Middle School in Portland, introduced social media programs and it was noted that grades improved by as much as 50%” (Strasburger 45).
Ultimately, social networking sites also help people to improve their relationships and make new friends. Many adults who use social networks have reported that they have improved their interactions with their peers, a trend that has been more than duplicated by teens (Madden et al. 250).
In conclusion, it is evident that social media platforms, despite some negative reputations, actually contribute to teens being more social as opposed to making them less sociable. The older generations assume that teenagers waste much time on social media instead of socializing with people face-to-face.
The reality is that social networks are the new face-to-face communication approaches for teenagers. The parents of the present “elders” castigated the radio and boom box, yet they did not negatively affect them. Similarly, social media should also be viewed as necessary tools and sources of inevitable changes that should be embraced rather than be fought.
Lenhart, Amanda, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr. “Social Media & Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults. Millennials.” Pew Internet & American Life Project 12.4 (2010): 87-95. Print.
Madden, Mary, Amanda Lenhart, Sandra Cortesi, Urs Gasser, Maeve Duggan, Aaron Smith, and Meredith Beaton. “Teens, social media, and privacy.” Pew Internet & American Life Project 2.9 (2013): 247-258. Print.
O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson. “The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families.” Pediatrics 127.4 (2011): 800-804. Print.
Strasburger, Victor. Children, adolescents, and the media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009. Print.
Singer, Dorothy, and Jerome Singer, eds. Handbook of Children and the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage publications, 2011. Print.