Benefits and Drawbacks of Online Social Networking for Children
The level of growth in these sites as platforms for communication and entertainment among children has been exponential. Some of these sites may be healthy for genuine interaction for children. At the same time such sites have proven to be unhealthy for interaction especially when activities such as cyber bullying, exposure to explicit content and sexting take center stage (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2018). Therefore, one would easily ask, what are the benefits and drawbacks of online social networking for children? Background Information Online social networking is the art of creating and maintaining personal and business relationships via a social media network. Social media as a tool of online engagement has proven to be of importance to children in enhancing the children’s technical skills, social connections and communication.
That notwithstanding, the major issue in online social media use among children is the level of regulations of access and internet content. Both the internet and the children have limited capacity for self-regulation and this is exactly why internet and social networking is a key problem in the society today (Smith, 2015). Further research supports that, such offline behaviors like sexual experimentation, clique forming, and bullying are frequently more expressed via internet than physically. This is probably because internet offers the freedom of speech without accountability. Children are therefore, more exposed to conditions of cyber bullying, sexting and privacy issues through the internet than it would have been without the internet and social media. This is a reality, because identities, thoughts and feelings of children are not construed by them, instead it is negotiated in a process of social interaction personalities (Reitz, Zimmermann, Hutteman, Specht & Neyer, 2014).
This process of personality negotiation happens 10 times a day online to more than 25% of the teens and tweens (Blaze Vic, 2016). Group socialization theory also stands out in trying to expound the role of peer socialization in children’s development. This theory postulates that as children grow in age, out of home socialization occurring in their peer groups determines so much their adolescent and future personality. Other studies have shown that different experiences such as schooling, and in the case of online social network, say becoming members of a particular online group shapes and models a child’s personality (Reitz, Zimmermann, Hutteman, Specht & Neyer, 2014). Naturally, a child’s social base in the past was limited again to close family members, school chosen by parents and on few occasions, children would make friends outside of this social boundaries created by their parental confinements.
This socialization was not solely children initiated but both parent initiated, and parent guided. This was even further guided by the fact families of the past had strong family ties and strong family rules and guidelines. However, this has changed over time, especially in the era of fathers and mothers chasing career interests as well as numerous cases of divorced parents. Children’s socialization has greatly changed with the upcoming of nontraditional homes. Data shows that as of 2016, at least 25% of children had profiles in either of these numerous sites (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2018). This has seen changes in socialization compared to 10 year back when data subscribers globally were only 3. 39 billion, only 17 % of these were children. New sites of interactions including WhatsApp, and snapchat, that were originally not there have impacted on how children socialize (Statista, 2018).
Socialization is no longer about instant messaging but also instant image sharing. Further research has shown that those who rely on social networks to reinforce secondary relationships besides real life relationship had expectations and certainty of future interactions. Social networking has been found to have a great relationship with children’s performance that is either positive or negative (Anne, Lewis & Peter, 2009; Kevin & Smith, 2010). According to Lillehammer (2010), children who spent more time on internet and social networks scored well in reading skills and overall high grades. Online Social sites have been found to provide the necessary much needed interaction between students and teachers (Roblyer, 2010). Moreover, these sites have been found to promote interactivity between the children and their teachers. Facebook usage for example was found to have harmful results of university grades.
This could be so true because social networking has been proved to be the biggest distractor of this social generation (Greenfield, 2010). On children this is a serious issue but may not be as heavy as exposure to explicit content. Studies have shown that 57% of children aged 9 and 19 have accessed either deliberately or unintentionally pornographic material online (Njoroge, 2013). Further, 22% have accessed sites with violence related content and 9% of this same age group has come into contact with sites that propagate some form of hostility and hate to a group of individuals (Livingstone and Bober, 2005). Retrieved from http://pediatrics. aappublications. org/content/127/4/800 Anne, West. Jane, Lewis and Peter, Curries. “Student Facebook ‘Friends’: Public and Private Spheres”. https://www. consumer. ftc. gov/articles/0012-kids-and-socializing-online Greenfield S.
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