Are social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn good for society? Justify your position.
Communication is what people do everyday; it is how people interact with each other, how they are able to form relationships, and how they are able to understand. However the way people communicate in the twenty first century as a result of social networking sites has changed rapidly. Social networking sites have revolutionised the way people communicate (Karklins & Dalton, 2012). They have grown uncontrollably, with 98% of people aged 18-24 on social networking sites and an estimated 1.1billion users on Facebook alone, and it is currently the easiest way of staying in contact with friends and family (Social Networking Statistics, 2012). The first social networking site was SixDegrees.com and came out in 1997 (Boyd & Ellison, 2007), but because of the rapid development in technology these sites are now widely accessible with 250million people accessing Facebook using smart phones (Social Networking Statistics, 2012). The Internet is mainly used as a source of education, and in today’s youth mostly as a way of communication.
Users of social networking sites are able to create personal profiles regardless of whether they are true or false, and are able to communicate with people around the world. Being able to create an online life can be dangerous; it can make people forget the priorities and the issues of real life making them withdrawn and showing signs of addictive behavior, “This form of technology has the power to change the way we relate to our self and to others. It can change the way we think, what we believe, the nature of our sexuality and even our sense of identity” (Turkle, 1996 cited in Karklins & Dalton, 2012 p. 205). However there is limited education, or awareness in place explaining the risks involved in social networking sites, leaving limited protection to the users of these sites. There are many benefits of social networking sites; unfortunately the dangers out way the benefits and it appears the negative effects social networking-sites have on society are much greater then the positive effects. The main negative effects social networking sites have on society are cyber bullying, children being exposed to inappropriate online content and unwanted adult interactions.
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However there are also many positive aspects of social networking sites and the positive effects they have on society. Firstly, social networking sites have made it easier for people to stay in contact with friends and family and keeping in-touch is now easier and more affordable. Users of social networking sites are able to create their own personal profiles to inform friends and family where they are currently studying, where they are working, and where they have been (Boyde & Ellison, 2007). Another benefit of social networking sites is social awareness. People are able to use social networking sites as a source of news and information, and are also able to create their own sites raising awareness to issues such as poverty, political rights and illness. Being able to create a page dedicated to certain issues can provide a sense of support and can make people more sympathetic and understanding of these issues (Dishman, 2012). The effects social networking sites have on society can be beneficial, but the risks and dangers of social networking sites are much greater and are happening more often then the positive outcomes. The first main negative effect social networking sites have on society is cyber bullying. Physical or mental, bullying is an issue people face all around the world. It can be destroying to ones mental health making them withdrawn, and can lead to depression (Litwiller & Brausch, 2013). Unfortunately due to social networking sites a new form of bullying called “Cyber bulling” has emerged throughout these sites.
There are an estimated 1.1billion people solely on Facebook, which means the opportunities for cyber bullying and the choice of victims is vast (Social Networking Statistics, 2012). Although bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere, before social networking sites bullying usually happened at schools and was in most cases controllable, because the teachers were able to patrol their students. However, bullying is now happening at home and there is limited ways of monitoring cyber bullying, as teachers cannot discipline their students if the bullying is occurring off school grounds, which can leave students feeling helpless (Karklins & Dalton, 2012). Another reason as to why cyber bullying is becoming an epidemic is because the bullies are unable to see the direct affect they are having on their victims, resulting in ”guilt free” bullying (Karklins & Dalton, 2012).
Also people may not realise that what may be a joke to them, could actually classify as bullying to another, words can be misinterpreted or taken out of context because there is no body language or facial expressions to coincide with what is being said. Cyber bullying should not be taken lightly, it can be destroying to ones life, leading to mental illnesses such as depression and eating disorders, and there has even been certain cases resulting in suicide (Litwiller & Brasch, 2013). However, there are actions users of social networking sites can take to protect themselves from cyber bullying, they can immediately block cyber bullies and make their profiles private, so only their chosen friends and family can view their information. Another issue social networking sites have on society is children being exposed to inappropriate online content.
The second main negative effect social networking sites have on society is children being exposed to inappropriate online content. Inappropriate online content can be sexual, violent, abusive, illegal, or discriminatory. This kind of inappropriate content can be damaging and it is suggested that exposure to this content can result in many negative effects such as desensitisation, aggressive behavior, and psychological trauma (Cho & Cheon, 2010). With many children now having access to social networking sites, inappropriate content can have a huge impact on their developing minds. Furthermore, if children produce inappropriate content and it contains any sexually explicit behavior of themselves or another minor and it is uploaded onto the Internet they can be charged with distribution of child porn and can become a registered sex offender with age providing limited protection (Lee & Crofts, 2013). The reason why inappropriate content is making its way online is because the Internet is easily accessible, and with social networking sites growing uncontrollably, and an estimated 70billion pieces of content uploaded onto Facebook every month, it is nearly impossible to patrol (Social Networking Statistics, 2012). Children who are using social networking sites need to be educated on the dangers posed by other people but also the dangers they pose to themselves. As well as the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content, unwanted adult interaction is also an issue faced by many children using social networking sites.
The third main negative effect social networking sites have on society is unwanted adult interaction. Unwanted adult interaction is usually inappropriate interaction between a minor and an adult and can sometimes result in sexual assault. With limited protection put in place for minors using social networking sites, many do have a minimum age, MySpace has a minimum age of 13 and Facebook has a minimum age of 14, yet there is no age verification, meaning children can lie about there age (Heide & Sander, 2008). MySpace also has a default privacy setting for all minors. However this setting can easily be changed. With no social networking sites guaranteeing full protection against online predators, it can be a dangerous place for many children (Heide & Sander, 2008). Having no firm privacy in place to protect minors makes it easier for online predators to access personal information such as what school a child goes to, their “about me” section, and their photos (Heide & Sander, 2008). Online predators will prey on minors who have low self-esteem or seem vulnerable, and will talk to them asking for intimate photos, or even arrange a meeting for sexual encounters.
Children who are victims of sexual assault can suffer mental illnesses such as post dramatic stress, and or depression (Lee & Crofts, 2013). Many children on social networking sites are yet to form a self-awareness of the dangers they may come across, and are unable to detect inappropriate behavior (Heide & Sander, 2008). Therefore, there should be permanent privacy for all minors accessing social networking sites, to prevent unwanted adult interactions. Social networking sites are beneficial, but need to reform their privacy and education.
The main negative effects social networking sites have on society are cyber bullying, children being exposed to inappropriate online content and unwanted adult interactions. These issues are becoming more regular because social networking sites are growing rapidly making it difficult to control what is being put online. There are actions users of social networking sites can take to prevent these issues; unfortunately the damage has usually already been done (Karklins & Dalton, 2012). There is no moral reason as to why there should not be a higher form of privacy to protect minors who are using social networking sites. After all the children are the ones falling victim to most of these issues as they have yet to gain the experience and education that only age can bring. As social networking sites are already apart of most children’s lives, there needs to be a educational system that makes both the children and parent aware of the dangers and risks that social networking sites can bring. Even with all the positive effect social networking sites obtain, they will never be worth one child being a victim of sexual assault. Which still happens regardless of these sites, yet it has been made easier with these sites allowing children and unlawful adults to interact. In conclusion, it appears social networking site use is drastically in need of a reform, and formal education to minors also paramount in avoiding the inevitable negative effects of social networking sites.
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