The benefits of a more connected world through social media far outweigh the downsides. With proper education about the dangers of social media, the downsides can be mitigated. As with all advances in the way we lead our lives, it’s never a clear path!
Remember when they said the internet would close all libraries? I say this because I am currently sat in a library writing this!
Allowing young people to connect with others all over the world will teach them so much and help them become more rounded individuals.
Before the Digital Era and the Rise of Social Media, life used to be pleasurable and straightforward, with no pressure of constantly updating your life. Everything you do use to be personal to you, with no fear of getting hacked or data leakage.
With the continued and increasing dominance of social media, the way of communication has changed.
You can communicate with anyone you like just in a couple of clicks.
Social media has shrunk physical distance and has made people closer than ever before. You can now move to any part of the world without fear of being far away from your family members and loved ones.
According to Statista, currently, there are more than 3.6 billion social media users worldwide. And this number is projected to increase by 0.81 billion by 2025.
According to Statista, here are the most popular social media site by the end of January 2022:
How Old Are the People Using Social Media?
People in the age group 18 to 30 are the biggest social media users, most of them being students. Here, the data prepared by Pew shows social media users according to the age:
|Age||Percentage of users|
|65 and above||37%|
The increase in the number of students on social media has changed the education system. Social Media has both positive and negative impacts on students.
Here we discuss the Pros and Cons of Students using Social Media
How Is Social Media Useful for Students?
- Social media connects people from across the globe.
- Social media makes education more accessible for all students.
- Connection with family and friends is easy and simple, regardless of physical distance.
- Young people can showcase their individual talents much easier with social media platforms.
- Social media allows young people to get a more unbiased view of current affairs by having multiple sources at their fingertips.
- Job opportunities are more accessible, both in social media itself and any other career path.
Social Media Connects Students From All Over the World
Social media is all about connecting people from all around the world. There are no geographical boundaries when it comes to connecting people through social media.
For many students, social media has been useful for connecting students studying the same courses as they are.
If you are a student, you may have come across many social media groups created to connect students studying the same subject as you are.
Students solve each other’s problems in such groups and share their experiences while learning a particular subject or topic.
You may also share much other important information like the scope of subjects you are studying, job opportunities, etc. This kind of data can be helpful for the group members.
Moreover, social media can also provide a platform for students’ exchange programs that many colleges and universities offer.
How Can Social Media Platform Connect Students With Teachers?
Social media provides a platform to connect students and provides a platform to connect students and teachers. Social media has made it easy for students to solve their queries anytime they want.
Now students do not have to make an appointment with their teachers to solve their queries. This can be either through built-in secure messaging or via in-app class chats, e.g. in Google Classroom.
This is beneficial not just for students but also for teachers, as sometimes when teachers cannot physically meet students, they can give effective feedback and assistance assignments through these platforms.
Furthermore, they can even conduct classes through social media. You might have come across many YouTube channels of teachers to make videos related to their subject matters. This has made the teaching and learning process easier and effortless for both students and teachers.
How Does Social Media Connect Students With Family Members?
Social media can connect students with family, regardless of physical location and with the advent of platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, multiple people can have a video conversation at the same time.
This is a huge benefit of social media among students, especially those living away from home, either at university or boarding school.
You may be aware that some of your students are living away from their homes. Students can get homesick if they do not habitually stay away from their house.
If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything it’s that connection with those we love is something that we all need.
Social media has reduced this physical distance by being a medium of connecting students with their family members.
There are so many video-calling photo-sharing educational apps now that the world feels smaller, the distances reduced.
Can Social Media Provide a Platform to Showcase Talent?
Platforms such as YouTube and TikTok can easily and inexpensively allow young people to showcase their talents and launch very profitable careers. Anything from singing to dancing, from baking to making, there is an audience out there.
You cannot deny that social media is one of the biggest platforms to showcase up and coming talent. Many students are using social media to show their hidden talent.
YouTube videos of children, teenagers, and even adults showing off their talents are now commonplace, in fact, many YouTube channels have launched successful careers.
From singing to dancing, reciting poetry to cooking, there are students out there making waves and showing the world what they can do.
One of the best things about making a career through social media is it requires zero investment. And importantly, it has potentially global attention.
As teachers we strive to help our students become the best version of themselves, surely this form of social media feeds right into this?
How does Social Media Provide a Broad Range of Opportunities?
Social media job boards provide up to date relevant job opportunities more efficiently than before. Also, the rise of social media has created a wealth of job opportunities itself. There is also the role of brand influencers which is a whole new avenue of opportunity.
These days social media is not just used for communication. It has been working as a pool for both job seekers and job providers.
There are even groups on social media that are specifically created to post about job opportunities that students of working age can do.
Moreover, social media has been one of the best platforms for business students to conduct and grow their businesses.
From Facebook Groups to Telegram chats, there is support, help and opportunities that would simply be out of reach without social media.
Students Can Use Social Media to Keep Up To Date With Current Affairs
Gone are the days where the only current affairs students had access to was their parent’s newspaper of choice. Now young people can keep up to date with news from a global melting pot of news agencies, that may report on something not covered in their own country.
You might have come across many posts on social media where people share current affairs. Obviously, we should instil a sense of objectivity in our students.
If we prepare students to spot biases and agendas, “Fake news” will become less of an issue.
Similarly, many news channels are sharing breaking news and other important current news on social media platforms.
Students do not need to read a newspaper or sit in front of the TV to watch the news. They can read or watch the news anytime they want.
What are the Drawbacks of Social Media for Students?
- Social Media can reduce the time spent on studies.
- The “perfect life/body” images can lead to low self-esteem in young people through social media.
- Bullying has moved to an online arena which is more difficult to track and remedy.
- Cases of teenage anxiety and depression are rapidly rising. There are strong links to social media being, in part to blame.
- Social media is 24/7 and young people can lack the maturity to switch off, leading to sleep deprivation.
- A reduction of physical activity is a real effect of social media. Even “hanging out” with friends is now commonly done over social media.
Reduced Concentration on Studies
Many parents agree that social media has been one of the main reasons for a decline in their kids’ academic performance.
You may have experienced this yourself; whenever you start to study, you get distracted by your notifications from social media.
Whenever you try to work or learn, you constantly check social media, thinking you might be missing some significant events.
Lowers Self-Esteem Among Children
It’s well understood that the life painted on most social media channels is not a true reflection of someones actual life. As adults, we understand this and take it with a pinch of salt.
This is not the case with children!
Children lack the life experience to be objective in what they see on social media.
They compare themselves with the “perfect” bodies and lifestyles they see and this can heavily contribute to low self-esteem and can lead to further problems affecting their mental health.
Social media influencers try to show “The Most Perfect” lifestyle, which a student cannot afford and start making students feel inferior about themselves.
Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking
One of the biggest and most dangerous issues students face while on social media is cyberbullying and cyberstalking.
Cyberbullying is one of the biggest problems among teenagers in schools. Students used to bully each other physically; now the bullying has moved to the virtual world.
Kids usually bully their peers whenever they post some picture or status on social media. They even harass your kids and blackmail them, which reduces kids’ self-confidence.
Online cyberbullying is even worse because it is not done face to face so people can easily say things that they wouldn’t dare say in person.
These instances of serious cyberbullying can and have, in many cases lead to teen suicide.
There are some brilliant charities that give help and advice around cyberbullying, cybersmile.org is a great international example.
Social Media is a Big Cause of Anxiety and Depression in Children
This point is related to the issues mentioned above. Unfortunately, cases of anxiety and depression in children are rising rapidly.
It is commonly assumed that the rise of social media platforms is a driving factor behind this.
In the UK the statistics are frightening, to say the least; youngminds.org.uk reports the following:
- 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom.
- 1 in 6 young people aged 16-24 has symptoms of a common mental disorder such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
- Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24.
- In 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19.
- Nearly half of 17-19-year-olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder has self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point, rising to 52.7% for young women.
Whilst these statistics are for the UK, they are mirrored in many other countries, where social media is common.
As a working teacher in the UK, I have noticed over the last few years that more and more of my students are reporting to be awake long into the night and in some cases the early hours of the morning.
Students can spend the whole night on their social media, chatting and posting random pictures and videos.
When I have spoken to my students about it, the most common thing I hear is that they didn’t want to miss out on anything (gossip, chat etc).
This FOMO (fear of missing out) is driven by their worries of being ostracised if they don’t know what happened “in the chat”.
This lack of sleep sadly has two major effects on students. Their academic progress suffers as well as their mental health.
Top Tip: Turn your wifi off when you go to bed (or earlier) then you know your children are not online all night!
Reduces Physical Activities
These days many students log in to their social media in their free time. As soon as they have some time, they get on their social media, reducing their physical exercise.
Students are either spending their time on their studies or their social media. Many children prefer to stay inside their room all day and night and use their devices instead of going out to get some fresh air, even if it is just for a walk.
How to Protect Students from Social Media (For Parents)?
- Communicate and educate young people about the benefits and dangers of social media.
- Use parental control platforms such as Google Family Link.
- Only allow young people to use a social media platform when they are old enough (many platforms require a user to be 13).
- Encourage young people to make their profiles private and only talk to people they already know.
If you are a parent, you might be worried about protecting your kids away from the dark side of social media. Adults might understand their dark side of social media, but kids and teenagers may not have the perspective adulthood gives us.
Communicate With Your Kids About the Dangers of Social Media
Communication is the key to solving any problem. As a teacher or parent, you should communicate with your kids about the dark side of social media. It would be best to make them aware of what happens when they use social media for a long time.
You should guide them on using social media and taking advantage of it and what things they should avoid, thus turning social media into a benefit.
Use of Parental Control Software
Sometimes, even when you communicate with your kids about social media, they might ignore you. Even when your kids are aware of social media, they may use it all the time.
To know what your kids are doing on social media, you can use parental control apps. Parental control apps help you to monitor your kids what your kids are doing on their devices.
Some parental control apps monitor your kid’s social media activities like their post, comments, messages, etc. They even show you random screenshots of your kid’s device activities.
One of my personal favorite parental control apps is fenced.ai which helps you monitor your kid’s online activities.
Restrict the Use of Some Social Media Sites
If your kids are using social media apps beyond their age limit, you should block such websites from your kid’s device.
It would help if you talked to your kids about using social media and their age limit to join social media.
Most social media requires an age limit of 13; it’s better to restrict kids from using social media until 13.
Encourage Your Kids To Make their Social Media Private
Many students, especially teenagers, make their social media public gain more followers and likes.
In short, to gain popularity on social media, kids and teenagers add random people on social media and make their posts public.
As adults, we can immediately see the danger here, but again, for teenagers the risk/reward ratio is different!
Thus, always encourage your kids to make their social media private and only add people they know in their real life.
Overall, it can be said that social media can be both detrimental and a benefit for students. It all comes down to education and being lead by responsible adults
Is Social Media Good or Bad for Students? FAQ
Social media can be both beneficial and detrimental. As with most new innovations, used correctly, it can be great, used poorly, it leads to problems. Regardless of the answer, the important thing is teachers and parents must lead by example and educate students.
Social media helps connect students studying the same subject in different parts of countries or even the world. Students can use social media to interact with their teachers, getting feedback on their work.
Caveat: This interaction should only ever be conducted on school-approved social media like Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. NEVER INTERACT WITH STUDENTS ON YOUR PERSONAL SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS!