The Threat of Social Media

More and more parents are becoming wary of social media, though it can have its benefits if it's used in a safe way. The influence of social media on adolescents and teenagers is of particular importance, not only because this particular group of children is developmentally vulnerable but also because they are among the heaviest users of social networking.

Bullying and rule-breaking may have existed before the digital age, but at least it was all within plain view. As our kids become old enough for social media, the possibilities of what's happening behind all of those screens is simply terrifying.

While social networking undoubtedly plays a vital role in the broadening of social connections and learning technical skills, the risks cannot be overlooked. The lack or difficulty in self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure makes adolescents vulnerable to such evils as Facebook depression (depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites), sexting, and cyberbullying, which are realistic threats. Other problems such as social network-induced obesity (due to lack of physical activity), Internet addiction and sleep deprivation are issues that continue to be under intense scrutiny. 



A very important cause for cyberbullying is the anonymity made possible by the Internet. Cyberbullying appears easy to the bully because they do not see their victims’ reactions in person, and thus the impact of the consequences may seem small to them. In reality, however, the consequences can be life altering to the extent that the victims could go as far as taking their lives or become psychologically distressed enough to require medical intervention. The ironically individualistic nature of social networking activities makes it difficult to recognize a victim of cyberbullying, but tell-tale signs include avoiding or being anxious around the computer or cell phone and a sudden change in behavioral patterns.


The Sexting Epidemic

Sexting, the action of sending sexually revealing pictures of oneself or sexually explicit messages to another individual or group, is another common activity among the adolescent and teen communities in social media. While teenage boys resort to sending sexually explicit or suggestive messages, teenage girls are more likely to send inappropriate photos of themselves, mostly to their boyfriends. However, the permanence and pervasiveness of the Internet makes it a fertile ground for passing the inappropriate message, to the extent of getting viral. Beyond the personal trauma and humiliation sexting may cause, there are judicial ramifications as well. Bermuda is no exception. Sexting is against the law and falls into the category of child pornography depending on the age of the child in the photo or video. Passing the photo or video on equates to trafficking of child pornography.


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