With a simple click, anyone, especially children, can discover the dark side of social media
An organization that helps victims of cyber bullying and sex-trafficking called HUB of Hope was targeted through social media platforms. Jenny Sorey, the founder of HUB of Hope, said that the problem with social media networks is that teenagers have difficulties in making a difference between what’s real and the virtual world.
“Not everything they see there is reality, but I think with a child or teen what they are seeing they don’t realize that’s not necessarily reality for them,” Sorey said.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, around 73% of teenagers have access to a smartphone. The important thing to be taken into consideration is that these phones have applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Sorey mentions that social media “plays a big part I think in just the judgment of themselves.” She adds that “I think there is an emotion identity that’s attached there.”
Moreover, she considers the technology driven world as a negative effect on children, creating potential dangerous situations whenever they text, call, follow, or post on social media platforms.
Associate professor of communication at the University of Arkansas, Ron Warren, believes that what makes social media unique to teens is the constant availability of interaction across social media channels.
“The biggest change that their parents’ generation would notice is that it has changed the way their kids interact,” Warren said. “Their relationships happen online because they can happen there all the time.”
He then added that he considers the main problem to be that children don’t know how to leave their devices aside. He considers that even though social media has its dangers, the threat of harassment is not as big as people believe.
“The best thing to remember is that it doesn’t happen to all the kids. The numbers vary, but it’s usually a pretty small percentage of kids,” Warren said.
Furthermore, he also mentioned that it is highly important that parents become involved in their children’s activities online. Parents need to be aware of the contents that their children encounter on social media.
Principal at Jones Elementary, Melissa Fink, says that she tries to get as involved as possible when it comes to taking responsibility in order to make sure that her students are safe in the online world.
“Kids are having devices at a much younger age and with that comes a lot of responsiblity–and it’s not a responsibility that kids just know how to do,” Fink said.
She decided that the best thing that she can do is to help their parents. Moreover, she hosts a free internet safety class during the school year.
“We just drilled down and got very specific about Snapchat and Instagram, we got very specific about cyber bullying,” Fink said.
Many of the parents who come to the meetings admit that they are not being social media savy. The workshop had as a purpose to give parents a base of understanding what’s going on with social media.