Social media dramatically impacts children’s growing minds and fully mature and established people. Often the influence of social networks and other applications is devalued, not considering them a serious threat. Humankind is used to living and developing in an environment where every step of any person can be recorded, tracked, verified, and established. In essence, this can be called extensive surveillance of everyone around us. However, it is worth noting that people themselves are pushing for them to be watched, their thoughts to be advertised everywhere, and their opinions to become the main thing. It is imperative to realize that such people are in the vast majority. This is passed on to those who will develop the future of different countries and who take an example from the similar actions of their parents, namely their children. This research paper is based on differences of Israel and the worldwide problem of children getting influenced by social networks. This problem will mostly concern young people, aged from 10 to 18 and their parents, how they see this situation from their side.
Literature and Problem Review
To describe other events, it is necessary to get acquainted with social networks and establish a clear correspondence between what fits into this category and what does not. The easiest way to describe this type of application can be as a program for communication between people and the exchange of various files, the creation of ordinary groups, and the presence of his intranet avatar (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). If we disassemble this proposal in part, you can get the essential components of any social network, namely: a personal page with a brief or not so much information about the user, the ability to communicate between people through the exchange of text or video and audio messages, creating group chats for general communication between its members, as well as the ability to download different types of files and content.
It is worth considering that these applications and sites are prevalent worldwide. Using all mentioned functions, it is possible to contact the person very far from another, quickly transfer this or that file, and organize meetings in any community. And all these functions are available just via any device. Of course, the main advantage is the mobility of such programs. They are not demanding the software and work quickly even on the weakest from the point of view of equipment machines (Children’s Research Network, 2020). Since the Internet is quite well developed, getting online is no problem. This is the most crucial part of proper application functionality and what the application hangs on.
According to the latest data, the most popular social network in the world is Facebook. If believing the latest figures, the average number of online users per day is almost 2 billion. This is just a massive number of people, and it should be understood that the social network must take full responsibility for disseminating all materials on its platform. That is why several strict rules on this platform prohibit the placement of different types of content and monitor the situation that occurs in this social network.
Having analyzed its capacity, the Facebook has all the necessary components to be called a social network. However, it should also be considered that each of these components carries some threats and can cause harm to a child and an adult. Therefore, further study of the problem is impossible without analyzing each item that makes up the social site for communication (Dedria Bryfonski, 2018). As mentioned above, Facebook will be taken as an example, as it is most developed in Israel, and most children spend their time there.
It is worth noting that every social network begins with the creation of a personal page. This is where the user’s basic information will be placed, their photo, date of birth, hobbies, and other details by which one can find this or that person. This tool is incredibly convenient because it does not require much knowledge to find a friend amongst the profiles of other users and is intuitive. A peculiarity of Facebook is a binding key date of the owner of the page, for example, when the friendship with a person was made by adding one to the list of friends.
In addition, the ability to leave comments under another person’s entries on a person’s page has already been mentioned earlier. It plays an essential role in the problem of this function. For example, by creating a fake account, it is possible to humiliate another person under ones record. This can significantly affect the psyche and destabilize the moral mood of the user. In addition, speaking of children’s perception of other people’s opinions, it is worth noting that it is only being formed, and any criticism of the child may harm.
Moreover, it is worth understanding that adolescents do not consider this as a problem. They may sometimes be happy to hurt others. So, parents should be paying more attention to what children write to each other on their pages. Sometimes this can signal a wake-up call to parents that their child may be being bullied by leaving angry comments.
Of course, it is impossible to shield a child from social media, as it has become mandatory these days. The social adjustment of the current generation is very different from what it used to be. Now more valued is the number not of real friends but virtual ones, how many other chats a teenager has, and how often he takes part in discussions of various topics. This moves seamlessly into the second point of the social media parsing, namely messaging and creating chats.
This function is the key, the main one for which such platforms exist. Messaging is precisely the basis for communication between two or more people. They can both write text, which takes a few moments to send and record other types of messages such as video or audio. In addition, this functionality goes beyond the usual exchange of thoughts, as it allows the system to be used as a file-sharing system without downloading third-party programs. To be as brief as possible, the possibilities of sending messages are endless, and new features are being introduced every day. For example, the function of transcribing voice messages into text is currently being tested, which allows you to listen to the recording of your interlocutor without downloading their audio track.
However, it is worth considering that unlike your personal page, where you can track information and see who may have written certain things, the messages are in a separate application from Meta. Very few people have access to them. The problems can be identical, such as harassment and harassment on different grounds. However, in this case, the scale is much larger than it appears. Using a messenger like this, chat participants can send files of various types and sizes. Since sending such messages is practically unmoderated due to the fact that the anonymity of communication is respected, forbidden materials can get into the correspondence. Therefore, it is believed that such social networks are not the safest environment for a child to communicate, as it can affect their development because of materials that are illegal.
It is also worth mentioning the possibility of creating group chats and how well this possibility is developed. Of course, sometimes it can help when creating conferences and organizing meetings away from home. It is also possible to upload files to such discussions as correspondence with another person. This eliminates the need to travel to the workplace and transfer the file manually. In addition, discussing all the details of this or that job is much more convenient without meeting directly.
However, here, as with simple messages, there are problems. The main one is considered to be the creation of groups with forbidden symbols and ideas. It is straightforward to indoctrinate children with the idea of any ideology and promote it to the masses through them. Therefore, on the expanses of Facebook, you can sometimes find closed groups that promote unacceptable values in the people. It is also worth adding that special channels recruit teenagers for illegal activities and promote ideology (Tufte & Waisbord, 2017). This leads to an increase in crime among young people and the distribution of illicit drugs.
At the same time the fans of any social network must pay tribute to the company Meta, which monitors the existence of such groups. The platform rules prescribe the norms for creating groups, and among them is the prohibition of creating propaganda and illegal channels. Unlike messaging, such groups are open and easy to monitor. In some cases, law enforcement agencies refer to information about the creators of such congregations of people engaged in illegal activities. Unfortunately, such cases are not frequent because, as already mentioned, a personal page can be easily faked, and identifying a person is impossible.
Instagram is a more spread social network as it is popular with young people and is promoted to where teenagers can share messages, post photos, and react to them. While speaking specifically about Israel, it is remarkable that although the majority of residents of this country use Facebook as their primary platform, the vast majority of these people are adults (Tufte & Waisbord, 2017). This is much more suitable for children, as there is an opportunity for self-affirmation and, in a way, a demonstration of one’s life (Yavich et al., 2019). Since most kids want to express themselves, Instagram gives them that opportunity through so-called Stories.
This feature allows posting a photo that disappears over time or after one day. It is used mainly to show those photos that are not suitable enough for the profile page. The same functionality provides the ability to respond to these photos and those that are on the user’s home page. Recently, Meta was able to buy Instagram, and now on this platform, there is a possibility to link an account to each other. This allows you to merge and manage two social networks from one account.
However, it is important to consider that this does not deprive the minuses of both platforms. For children, it is vital how they are affected by the content posted on these social networks. Users often see advertising encouraging children to make rash investments and follow links to dubious sites (Meikle, 2019). In addition, the opportunity to leave comments also comes back to the previously discussed issue of negative statements about someone else. In the case of Facebook, photos do not play as important a role as on Instagram because the social network consists entirely of this kind of content.
We also have to consider children’s addiction to this kind of social media. Children often do not notice how much time they spend in a particular place to communicate with others and do not spend it on more valuable things. Looking at other people’s photos, watching short videos, and socializing can take hours away from a child who could have devoted it to learning. Over time, this develops into an addiction that only worsens over the years.
The latest extremely popular way for children to spend time on social networks is the Tik-Tok app. Its essence is that people, mostly young people, post short videos lasting up to 3 minutes. It can also be called a social network, as it combines all of the qualities mentioned earlier and a stronger emphasis on just video content. Tik-Tok is popular worldwide, and more and more children use it as the leading platform for watching content and communicating. Since it has only recently emerged, children are looking for opportunities to become as popular as possible on the wave of popularity.
In Israel, comparing with other countries, the practice of becoming popular using illegal methods is not presented, still the possibilities of this problem occurring are not minimal. The trends are getting more popular and may interfere with the children in this country. The biggest problems associated with social networks in Israel are the dependence on mobile devices, bullying, and the need to constantly show yourself off via Instagram. It spreads like a domino effect, and such offenses only increase. Unfortunately, this often has unfortunate consequences. In an effort to become popular, teenagers do foolish things—all to attract as many viewers as possible to their accounts and become as famous as possible (FirstCry Parenting, 2018). For example, there are cases when a child commits a crime and films it on his account (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2021). Of course, it may seem that there is nothing serious about it, but the posted material is viewed by a large number of people with the same purpose – to gain popularity.
If one looks at the trend of this social networking site and the graphs of time spent on it, you can see how much children are becoming addicted to this type of social networking site as well. The short videos create the illusion that not much time has been spent watching. However, one video after another is addictive and impossible to stop. In addition, Tik-Tok selects videos based on the user’s interests, which pulls in the chosen content even more.
In addition, there is an opportunity to post your videos on a variety of topics. In this respect, this application has practically no content restrictions, and people of any age can use it due to the absence of strict entry criteria. Under the posted videos, it is also possible to leave a comment. As has already been said several times, it gives an opportunity to bully on absolutely any ground, mostly entirely subjective.
Any of the named social networking sites have a negative effect on teenagers, making them dependent on both the apps themselves and the opinions of those around them (Lynn Schofield Clark, 2018). In addition, it is also worth remembering that such places are in demand among the PR of dubious content, which can affect the development of the child. These can be as trivial casino ads, which are also banned and illegal, and more advanced dubious opportunities, like selling illicit items. Parents need to be more attentive to their child’s interests, just like the creators of their social networks. It puts the child at risk and directly affects their development. It’s the same with time spent on social media. It needs to be monitored just as much and let your teen be distracted by other things like live social interactions. A child can’t spend his whole life communicating only through social media. It should only be a starting point that will give confidence to the child in future conversations and social adaptation.
Other Social Networks
It is also worth remembering that children have other ways to interact socially with each other in addition to social networks. These are, for example, video games using communication and special voice chats, where children can exchange thoughts in real-time. Such chats were created to create a friendlier community around certain games and influence the gameplay. However, similarly to social networks, they carry a certain amount of threats which cannot be counted as these networks are developing everyday for the younger generation since the moderators of these services are not the platform creators but people responsible only for their servers.
Such places are poorly protected from the influence of offenders and play an essential role in the formation of the child in the future. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor such a platform’s effect on a person’s formation and suppress attempts at manipulation (Frey et al., 2021). Obviously, this should not turn into spying on your child, but there must be some rules and a threshold of entry. Unfortunately, these levers of pressure are absent, and the set of rules is reduced to a minimum to preserve freedom of speech and open all the possibilities of these platforms. This encourages offenders to publish their content on such sites and attracts young people to crime and the formation of the wrong ideology.
It should not be forgotten about the already mentioned video games, which also affect and destabilize children, making them dependent not only on public opinion but also on time spent in the game. If in the case of social networks, there is some moderation, then it is absent in the format of video games. It is impossible to trace the impact on children and their reactions to such cases in this place (FirstCry Parenting, 2018). It is impossible to establish constant control over the communication of adolescents with the software. Therefore, the responsibility lies with the parents, who monitor the child’s behavior and how they react to certain things.
In order to describe all of the problems mentioned above in detail, a qualitative research method was used, which was conducted with the participation of both children and their parents. The qualitative method allows us to fully understand the extent of the problem and how it affects children and those who raise them because, in addition to the established number of people interviewed, there is the possibility of much more profound research than just establishing cause-and-effect relationships. To that end, this study involved both sides of the issue at hand. It provides a more in-depth analysis, and the ability to correctly interpret the data will be much greater than interviewing only one participant in the research process. Thus, it was possible to establish a connection between how parents and their children relate to social media and its influence not only on the psyche but also on the child’s overall development, which is also essential in the context of the question under consideration.
The research was conducted in several stages and independently of the results of the previously interviewed representatives. This gives complete information about how different parties considered the essence of the question; therefore, it is possible to obtain a more average result. It is also remarkable that the data cannot be called entirely true as, for the most part, all residents had a subjective point of view as well as were in a narrow range of areas, which does not allow extrapolating the data obtained during the study to the entire region, where the study of this issue took place.
One hundred respondents were interviewed with an equal ratio for more plausible results. This allows for a more accurate collection and interpretation of data and analysis of answers to the pre-designed questions. Since an equal number of respondents was mentioned, it should be clarified that the survey participants were fifty parents and the same number of children who actively spend time on the computer and social networks. The age of the people surveyed has also played a significant role in this research. As for the parents, there were two categories, older and younger. This was done to notice the older generation’s social tendency to adapt to their children. Thus, out of five hundred parents, twenty-eight belonged to the younger category, ranging in age from twenty-seven to thirty-five. The remaining twenty-two representatives were between the ages of thirty-six and forty-five. The number of female and male representatives was equal, which also allows for a more reliable study of the obtained data.
Speaking about children, who were also fifty, they were also divided by age categories. The younger group consisted of twenty participants aged ten to fourteen. There were thirty participants in the older group, ranging from fifteen to eighteen. Gender parity was also maintained for the complete reliability of the information.
It is worth adding that the interviewees were searched for an extended period of time for more truthful indicators. All of them also consented to the processing of their answers and to keeping their identities completely confidential. This was done due to compliance with all regulations on data collection and further research.
Writing questions was also a challenging exercise, as this process is one of the most responsible for formulating the entire study and interpreting the information obtained. Participants from the category of parents were offered a list of six statements, to which they had to answer on a five-point system, where one means strong disagreement and five means strong agreement with the statement. Since this is a qualitative research method, participants were also asked to comment on their answers, which influenced the results of some surveys, as will be mentioned later. Below is a list of the questions given to parents:
- Children spend too much time on the computer
- While online, children are entirely safe
- There are people on the Internet who are bullying my child
- I know my child’s area of interest
- Social networking brings more benefits than harm to children
- Parents need a personal social networking page to keep tabs on their children’s posts
Each of these statements provides a measure of how aware parents are of the problems with their children’s social interactions on the public Internet. They also allow us to learn not only the basic knowledge of parents but also to understand how different categories of parents differ depending on their age. It is no secret that the younger representatives of this group also have their pages on social networks. Still, it is worth specifying how much attention they pay to their child’s behavior, not general world trends.
As for the group of children, their statements were very different from those of their parents. Children see the question from a different perspective, so it is necessary to consider their answers with the same seriousness as the study of how the parents answered. The children were given the following statements:
- I spend too much time on social media.
- My parents worry too much about my safety
- I have witnessed online bullying
- Parents should check social media less often to monitor my actions
- Social media is more important to me than face to face conversations
- Kids should be responsible for what they post, not their parents
These questions will help to see how this group feels about social media in general, their parents, and how they monitor their children’s actions. The data collected will help look at the conflict situation from both parents and teens, giving an idea of the overall problem and what it looks like from different angles.
Before moving on to the interpretation of the data obtained, it is worth noting the method of interviewing. It was conducted in addition to the previously announced criteria by means of an oral survey and manual recording of the data. In addition, it is essential to consider the fact that the survey was divided into several days due to the convenience of the participants in the process and a correct formulation of conclusions, without the influence of external factors such as fatigue.
Regarding the results, the answers of the group of parents belonging to the younger category should be discussed first. It is worth reminding that their number prevailed over the second group of respondents. For convenience, we denote this part of the subjects by number one and the older category by number two. The first statement was the following: “Children spend too much time on the computer” Most of the respondents from this group answered positively. Still, compared to the more experienced part of those who were asked this question, it is inferior. The number of people in the first group who responded positively was about 60%, while the second group answered the same question positively 75% of the time. As expected, young parents are more loyal to their children’s hobbies with computer technology than their older counterparts.
The second statement said, “While online, children are completely safe.” In response to this sentence, both categories responded roughly equal proportions, namely 80 and 86%. Therefore, we can conclude that younger and older parents do not trust modern social media and are quite skeptical about online safety. When asked why their opinion was formed this way, the answer was that too low a level of entry and the lack of proper moderation affects their safety.
The results were quite ambiguous regarding the statement “There are people on the Internet who are bullying my child, ” as the difference in votes was significant. The first group responded neutrally, as they were unsure of their choice or did not notice bullying. Most young parents tended to believe that their children would not hide such information from them and share their problems. Only 23% of younger parents responded that other children negatively influenced their child. Among the older group, virtually none responded neutrally; in the majority, all respondents responded positively. However, when asked, “Did they ever notice their child being bullied?” nearly all respondents said no, but they were confident that their child was being bullied. Only 15% answered negatively. It can be concluded that there is an atmosphere of distrust among older parents that may not be justified.
The following statement was, “I know my child’s area of interest.” Here without surprise, all parents responded positively, indicating that they keep track of their children’s interests. However, an important feature was that when the children were surveyed, they were asked to list the things that interested them the most. Unfortunately, it was found that in addition to the areas listed by parents, about 60% of the children listed additional areas that had not been previously mentioned. This indicates that despite the confidence in the knowledge of their child, it does not always indicate the reliability of the data obtained.
In terms of the statement “Social networking brings more benefits than harm to children,” opinions were divided, as the older the person who gave their assessment of the proposal, the more positive the response became. The point is that today’s social networks cause distrust and dislike among the older generation because these technologies have only recently been developed. In this connection, the popularity of these platforms is not a priority for representatives of the older generation. However, at the same time, young parents, on the contrary, do not agree with this statement. Assessments from representatives of different groups evidence this. Thus, 74% of participants in the first group confirmed that social networks are an integral part of their children’s lives, including the development of social skills and essential tools for communication. Representatives from the second group were more inclined to the opposite opinion, as more than half, namely 67% of those surveyed, agreed with this statement. The conclusion is that the older generation of parents is more biased toward social media and sees it as more of a threat than a positive thing. At the same time, the interviewed people from the first group believe that social networks help their children adapt to the outside world.
The last statement parents encountered was, “Parents need a personal social networking page to keep tabs on their children’s posts. The result of the survey showed similar results to the previous sentence. Most young parents agreed and added to their answer that they already have a social media account, something the second group cannot boast of. The former voted with 92% agreeing with the statement, while the latter group agreed with just 58%. This is due primarily to the distrust, as mentioned above, of such platforms and the personal tastes of each respondent. In this regard, we can conclude that younger parents, oddly enough, are more technologically advanced than their older counterparts. The prejudice largely dominates the second category that social media is harmful to the child and is not so necessary.
Speaking about the results obtained in the survey of children, it is also worth considering that the sentences were not precisely tailored to the age category. For many, they sounded earnest, and children seemed a little confused about their answers, which is also worth considering when revising the numbers. In this case, similar to parents, these categories should be divided by age. Using numbering would be most convenient since the first group also belonged to younger children, while the second group would belong to adolescents.
The first statement on the list was, “I spend too much time on social media. Here there are no unexpected outcomes, as the representatives of both groups answered almost identically. The first and second groups denied the statement, but it is worth considering the fact that teenagers gave a negative answer in higher numbers, 88% vs. 72%. An additional question asked for the approximate amount of time spent on social media by group members. While the younger group gave more modest numbers, namely 2-3 hours per day, the teen category had much higher numbers, 6-8 hours. This allows us to understand how much more time the older representatives devote to their pages and communication than the younger ones.
The children’s following statement was, “My parents worry too much about my safety. There were no surprises here either, as both categories gave almost the same positive answer. Despite the age difference, both groups agreed that their parents were too worried about their safety. The same goes for the question, “Parents should check social media less often to monitor my actions. Interestingly, children whose parents do not have a social media account responded positively. This suggests that, in addition to cybersecurity, parents may be overly concerned about protecting their children from the outside world. Despite this, many children complained that their parents watch them too much, and the numbers show this, as the first group agreed with the statement 68%, while the second group gave even more of the same answers, 74%.
The same is true for the sentence, “I have witnessed online bullying. Opinions regarding such a statement were divided. We should start with the second group since they responded positively, although not in a large number of the respondents. Only 58% of participants said they had witnessed online bullying, while children showed a much lower response rate, with 22% responding positively. When we looked at the details, we found out that most bullying occurred in the teenage years, around 14. It is hard to say how much influence social media has had on this period of adolescents’ lives.
In addition, the statement “Social media is more important to me than face-to-face conversations” is also remarkable. For the most part, both groups answered identically. Judging by the numbers, the first group agreed with this sentence in 68% of cases, while teenagers agreed in more than 80%. This indicates that living their lives in social networks, many of which, according to parents, should adapt the child to communicate in real life. On the contrary, they should avoid this type of conversation.
Regarding the statement “Kids should be responsible for what they post, not their parents,” it should be noted that the result was surprising. Almost all children in the first and second categories agreed with this statement. In the first group, 92% of those surveyed agreed with it, and the second group scored a slightly lower percentage, namely 86%. Even at such a young age, children understand that they should be responsible for what they post online and not depend on their parents’ supervision.
To summarize the work we have done, which took a considerable amount of time to study both the impact of social media on the lives of teenagers and the collection of all the necessary data, we can say that although there is a danger of influence, not a child, we should not attach too much importance to it. Every parent tries to keep their child safe in every possible way, even on the Internet, but it should be understood that the generation has changed and the world is developing. New methods are being invented to communicate; the same is valid for sharing information. This field has just begun to develop, and it is necessary to accept that danger is everywhere, not only in the field of communication. As the research shows, the threat is not as significant as it seems, and it is only necessary to adapt to the life that children live.
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