According to Hootsuite social media statistics, 3.48 billion people now use social media which represents an increase of 9% from last year. 45% of the total world population thus, are using social networks. Social media is fully integrated into our daily lives. In average, digital consumers spend nearly 2.5 hours on social networks and social messaging every day. When coming to younger generations, daily exposure duplicated systematically. Social media is here to stay, it has changed the way society connects, communicates and exchanges information, in many ways for the better. Due to the widespread popularity and constant development of smartphones and electronic devices modern life has reconfigured, cutting across national boundaries and impacting on relationships, culture, economy and world views (Jenson, 2013).
Social media represents at this point an incredible pool of expected and growing opportunities.
Just to start, it has become one of the most critical parts of our CV in any recruitment process. In its 2018 report, CareerBuilder highlighted how 70% of hiring managers using their services said that they had used social media to gather information on applicants, and 57% of them told that they had found content contrary to the company’s policies. Most significant, they all tend to evaluate negatively the fact that candidates do not have an online presence.
Social media has equally become the perfect ground for emerging markets where real business is taking place. 28% of marketers have either already implemented social commerce or plan to do so in the next year. Most companies maintain between four and ten social profiles. 90% of brands use social media to increase brand awareness. More than 40% of digital consumers use social networks to research new brands or products. Global social media advertising spending increased by 32% in 2018, and it does deliver business results.
However, social media can be a double-edged sword. There is growing concern that digital technology can also bring negative repercussions, especially to the younger generation, digital natives, who are its primary consumers. All parents and educators in the world are worried about the 'Momo Challenge,' the increasing rated os cyberbullying, sexting and grooming. Yes! It is proven. Social media can be very addictive. A recent psychological study suggested that with 10 minutes of social media time can raise oxytocin levels as much as 13%—a hormonal spike equivalent to some people on their wedding day. Addiction is never good. It hampers concentration levels and thus performance outcomes. Inappropriate use of social networks can easily exacerbate other mental health disorders such us feelings of disconnect, low self-esteem, fear of missing out, body image issues, poorer sleep patterns, mood modifications, and identity issues. And youth radicalization is happening online.
Is then possible to really create a healthy environment online? Should we allow our underaged kids to expose themselves to such a long list of potential causes of distress and even death? Are they ready? Are we ready?
Here are some interesting points of reflection before each parent or educator in the world made their own mind on the issue:
1. Life is life.
All these potential risks that we have highlighted and many others that we could still find and research about are not directly related to social media. They exist and have been existing since always in the offline world too. Social media just make them viral. What of course, indeed, is a problem. But not the root of the problem itself.
Both online and offline reality is dangerous. This is why kids need to get access to the right things and at the right time. And this is why education is crucial. Kids and adults need to be aware of risks, its implications, and its manifestations, so they are able to prevent them. But they also need to develop resilience to face what may eventually come, to overcome obstacles and to sort out challenges the best way possible. They need to build strong willpower to behave in a way that is beneficial for themselves. To be able to dose their exposure and to use the tools they have responsibly.
2. Social Media is a tool.
Sometimes digital immigrants are so focused on the possible negative consequences that can eventually derive from social media that they forgot that social media is just a tool. As a tool, thus, it is not good or bad per sei but entirely depends on the use that we make of it.
There is a clear need to educate in positive. To ensure that children, digital natives, grow in an environment in which they are empowered to think big and responsibly understanding all the positive outcomes that their actions can bring to themselves and their communities. They should be aware of risks, but they can not be educated on fear. We need to empower them with a will for doing great things and leaving their own influential footprint. Afterward, we could present to them social media as a powerful tool to shout out their message to the world.
Educating in positive is one of the most useful tools to help them get distance from any potential risk they may eventually encounter.
3. Unity of life
Showing kids how to behave online does not differ much from teaching kids good behaviors offline.
Social media is a tool that can be used for many different purposes- professional reasons, skills development, communication, entertainment, relationship building-. Kids need to know how to behave in each circumstance according to the goal that they are trying to achieve. But all those situations that are taking place online are somehow quite similar to kids interacting with their colleagues in the playground, entering a temple of their religion or any other religion, or preparing for an interview to get a summer internship.
Online is no substitute for offline and integrity is something related to the person no matter the sphere of interaction.
4. Just information is not enough. We need education.
We live in a quick word. Sometimes it is difficult to scratch some time even for what we love the most. But there are more and more studies confirming that, when coming to education, quality is not enough. We need quantity. For education to flourish we need to invest time, resources and efforts. Lots of them.
It is not enough to teach kids about risks and opportunities. We need to become role models ourselves. We need to ensure that we never replace children basic needs (in terms of love, time, affection and attention) with digital tools and social media.
Exceptions in life exist. It is clear. Who has never silenced a kid with youtube? We do not need to be perfect, but we need to be always aware, so we ensure that not-educative actions do not perpetuate and develop into bad habits.
Positive approach. Awareness. Empowerment. And lots of time-investment in quality education!