The Internet has become a part of our daily life. Apart from social engagement, it has become an integral part of education too. I am sure students are often given tasks to research topics for homework and projects. Google, Yahoo, and ask.com are platforms where one can ask and get information – about almost everything. Many students have Facebook groups where they can ask each other about homework, school activities and tests. Research shows that the positive influences linked to social networking include:
σ developing ‘virtual empathy’
σ learning to socialise, behind the safety of screens
σ picking up tools that make you learn in an engaging way
However, social media can also be distracting, and can negatively impact learning. Studies reveal that middle school, high school and college students, who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period, achieved lower grades. It is also said that the internet has caused a lack of quality time, of face-to-face communication.
The social media is often associated with cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and harassment. Unfortunately, most of the victims are teenagers. This could be avoided by taking appropriate actions – like being nice to others, staying vigilant, and not sharing personal details with people you do not know.
There are also other negative behaviours, not constituting bullying, that happen at school and can be expressed online - like social rivalry, pranks that turn out to be hurtful, embarrassing mistakes, arguments, etc.
While using social media, be careful about posting embarrassing information, text, photos or videos. These can damage reputations. Since Facebook allows children as young as thirteen to open accounts, young adults often self-reveal before they self-reflect. As a result, millions of kids say and do things on-line that they later regret. The permanence of what anyone posts online, with the absence of an ‘eraser’ button, means that the humiliation and potential damage can last forever. While most children above fifteen are quite aware of the public nature of their online socialising, and use the privacy settings, the younger ones need guidance.
The risk of teens being harmed by someone they meet on the Internet, much less social networking sites, is very low. But the risk cannot be ignored. As in the ‘real world’, safety depends on a lot on the people involved. Whether on computers, tablets or phones, safety in social media is a shared responsibility – between users and the service. Be clear that nobody ever has the right to make you feel uncomfortable. Nobody should engage you in uncomfortable sexual conversations, or force you to divulge personal details. Research shows that overuse of media and technology can have a negative effect on the health of young adults, by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. Excess has always been bad.
Finding where to draw the line between screen time and real time is the key to developing an all-round personality.