Addressing social media usage among schoolgoers

The year 2020 brought the realisation that almost every single task can be accomplished online. Social media stood  at the centre of it all.
Addressing social media usage among schoolgoers

KOCHI: The year 2020 brought the realisation that almost every single task can be accomplished online. Social media stood  at the centre of it all. Educational institutions rose to this challenge by moving the academic  year online. As a logical consequence of this move, the exposure of schoolchildren to the internet has increased dramatically. Whether this increase in internet usage led to an increase in social media use will differ from home to home. It won’t be unsound to say however, that today’s schoolgoers are far handy with a smart-phone and have more access to  information. 

While we have been given this amazing platform to express ourselves, everything good comes with its share of bad. Social media too, has its ups and downs. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 95 per cent of children in India live in homes with a mobile phone and 73 per cent of Indian children are mobile phone users. 

According to a report by Influence Central, the average kid gets their first smartphone at age 10.3, and opens their first social media account by age 11.4. By the time they are 12, 50 per cent of kids use at least one social media platform.  

Adverse effects on mental health  

  • Prolonged use of social networking sites could be lead to mental health concerns like low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, narcissistic behaviours and anxiety. A steep rise in the use social media by adolescents in the last decade has increased mental health distresses like suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviours, body-image concerns, sleep deficiency, eating disorders and behavioural addictions. 
  • Intentional and unintentional exposure of children to sexually explicit content, including child sex abuse images, may have negative psychological or behavioural effects on them. Unintentional  exposure may occur by accident or inadvertence in the form of pop-ups or misleading domain  names, during otherwise innocuous activities. 
  • Prolonged social media use for could lead waste of precious time which could otherwise be  used in constructive and growth-oriented ways. 

Cybercrimes 
Cyber-bullying  
Cyber-stalking  
Child pornography  
Cyber-grooming  
Deep fakes  
Identity theft 
Sexting

TOWARDS A SAFE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERIENCE 

  • Access to independent smartphones at a very young age is not advisable.
  • It is recommended that if children or adolescents share the device of their parent or guardian.  
  •  Children should be cyber-educated, and encouraged to use social media responsibly.  
  •  Children, adolescents and people in positions for their care must be made aware of the dangers and  horrors of unmonitored and uninterrupted social media use.  
  • If children are found to be insistent on having social media control at a young age, reasons for the same  must be investigated.  
  • Talking to the child as to what  he or she did online is crucial.
  • Children or adolescents, along with their peer-groups could be encouraged to take up group activities together, outside of a classroom. This would help them in satisfying their very  natural socialisation needs. In situations where a child or adolescent has excessive social  media presence, a simple practice like ‘No gadget day’ could be introduced.   
     

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