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Social Media: Psychologically and Physically Harmful to Children

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Social Media: Psychologically and Physically Harmful to Children

RES 104 Research Writing


Social media has negative affects on children, adolescents, and teens that can lead to serious psychological and physical symptoms. Negative results of children using social media include: cyber bullying, “Facebook Depression,” sexting, and Internet-addiction. Symptoms of those results include depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, cognitive and concentration problems, sadness, crying spells, and weight loss or gain. Positive outcomes discussed are social media use in education, improvement in communication skills, and social opportunities and relationships. Solutions offered involve parents becoming more computer-savvy, looking for signs of Internet-addiction and depression/bullying. Parents additionally need to more closely monitor their children’s Internet and phone usage.

Social Media: Psychologically and Physically Harmful to Children

Social media is everywhere around us. We see it in the media, in the news, in conversation, in our own email inboxes, and even on our phones. Commercials have Facebook and twitter logos in them. Even the news refers to their social media sites and talk about trending conversations on twitter. Social media is everywhere in our society, and it is here to stay. There are several great things that come out of social media: free advertising and marketing for businesses, more employment opportunities are found on social media websites, and it even helps adults find and reconnect with old friends.

What happens when children get involved with social media? While there are benefits of children being involved in social media, the negative outcomes far outweigh benefits. Social media has negative outcomes on children that can lead to serious psychological and physical symptoms. These symptoms are a result from cyber bullying, “Facebook Depression,” sexting, and Internet addiction.

To better understand the problems with social media, it needs to be defined. Simply, social media are websites or applications used for social networking. Social networking is a way to communicate with friends or others with similar interests. There are several platforms to communicate via social media, the most common being: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Google Plus, Instagram, and various blogging websites. Through these websites children, adolescents, and teens can share and view pictures, videos, blog/diary entries, and daily updates posted by the user.

Negative Affects of Social Media

According to a poll cited in the report, more than half of American teenagers log onto their favorite social media site at least once a day, whereas 22% do so at least 10 times a day; 75% of teenagers now own cell phones, with 54% of them using them for texting, 24% for instant messaging, and 25% for social media access. According to the authors of the new report, increase in social media has been so rapid and their presence in children’s everyday life is no so pervasive that, for some teens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, and a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones.

According to Gwenn Surgin O’Keeffe, M.D., “Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media.” (O’Keeffe, 2011, p. 800) Part of the lack of self-regulation of children, adolescents, and teens is they are spending too much time away from their parents. It is the parents’ responsibility to help regulate Internet time.  Parents should not only be regulating Internet time, but also talking to their children about peer pressure. They also need to teach their children how the Internet can be a dangerous place if not used properly.

“Cyber bullying is deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person,” states Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, M.D.  (O’Keeffe, 2011, p. 801) While cyber bullying is different from traditional bullying, both can cause anxiety, fear, depression, and low self-esteem. They differ over the medium in which they are performed. Traditional bullying occurs in front of the person (meaning the one doing the bullying and the victim). Cyber bullying is all done online, generally over a social media website such as Facebook, twitter, or MySpace. While the above stated symptoms are psychological symptoms, they can manifest themselves into physical symptoms, and in extreme cases suicide.

According to the survey cited in the O’Keeffe report, 19% of teens say they have been harassed online or cyber bullied, and 38% know of someone else who has been

 (O’Keeffe, 2011). Bullying or cyber bullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicide. The consequences can be life altering, both for the victim and the bully. The children may require treatment for mental health issues.

Another negative aspect of children using social media is a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression.” Facebook depression is defined as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” (O’Keeffe, 2011, p. 802)

Both Facebook Depression and traditional Depression can be serious, especially when experienced by a child, adolescent, or teenager. According to Keith A. King, Ph.D., MCHES, and Rebecca A. Vidourek, Ph.D., CHES of the University of Cincinnati, some symptoms of both types of depression include: Sadness and crying spells, difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively, feeling shame or worthless, concentration problems, sudden weight loss or gain, and having thoughts of death or suicide (King, K., & Vidourek, R., 2012, p. 15).  

Depression, regardless if it is traditional or from Facebook, is very serious. Not only is the child mentally unhealthy, but also physically unhealthy. Lack of sleep in a growing body can cause behavior problems, increased appetite (weight gain), and cognitive problems, which affects performance in school, according to the National Sleep Foundation (web). Weight loss or weight gain can lead to secondary health problems, as well as lack of self-esteem.

According to a study done by Selfhout, M., et al, at Utrecht University, “adolescents who have a low perceived quality of friendship and spent a lot of time surfing the Internet showed higher incidences of depression. “(Selfhout, M., et al, 2009, p. 828) Those who are suffering from Facebook depression may feel isolated, and therefore turn to help on the Internet. Internet help may lead to blogs or unhealthy alternatives such as unsafe sex, substance abuse, or self-destructive behaviors (O’Keeffe).



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