Cyberbullying Through the Social Media Platforms

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Social media is a platform to both communicate and exchange ideas and photos. Interaction through social platforms is becoming more common leading to fear of being marginalized in this technology-dependent society. The most popular apps used among teenagers are Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. Instagram, as well as Snapchat, is used to exhibit one’s life to their followers, where they tend to share only the best pictures or moments. Facebook leans toward textual content, encouraging users to write posts or advertise their business. Social Media’s influence on teenagers is constantly discussed as they rely on it exclusively and eventually get addicted. Some negativesof social media include cyberbullying, negative self-image and social comparison. However, some positives can be found, including informed youth, safety, interconnectedness among youths, and online support. “Social networking is a topic that divides opinion - some people think it's an amazing tool but others are worried about the impact it has on people's lives,” states the BBC News. Social media has both negative and positive aspects in how it influences teenagers in the UK.

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Social media can make teenagers more anxious and depressed, as studies have an overwhelming amount of evidence correlating the negative effects of a permanent connection to the screen. Teens regularly compare themselves to the bodies or lives of people in social media, which is theorized to be normal during their age and personality formation. They choose to ignore the fact that these people only show the best parts of their lives and prefer to believe in the ‘perfect’ life that they exhibit. “Teens spend a lot of time trying to live up to these unrealistic expectations and falsified pictures,” leading to low self-esteem, self-doubt, poor body image and fear of missing out. The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health questioned 1,500 teens and young adults about their social media habits finding that Instagram and other social networks are associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and a fear of missing out.

When seeing the moments that friends or known persons share in the media, a feeling of insecurity runs through your body. Why is she or he so splendid, so pretty, so social? It seems like they spend all day outside with friends and having fun, so it makes them think that their life is boring and that they have friends but they are not that popular. It makes them want to live their life instead of theirs, but they don’t realize that these people are only sharing the best parts of their lives. Not only this, but it is also important to know that these persons are probably in a different stage of their lives, so it is useless to make yourself feel bad.

Compared to earlier generations, the lives of present-day teenagers differ drastically; they spend the majority of their time communicating through social networks and less time interacting in real life situations. Experts claim that connections through this medium are less emotionally satisfying, provoking a feeling of social isolation. “The less you are connected with human beings in a deep, empathic way, the less you’re really getting the benefits of social interaction” points out Alexandra Hamlet, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “The more superficial it is, the less likely it’s going to cause you to feel connected.” This connects to the idea of the lack of communication skills that the majority of teenagers have today. Humans have the necessity to interact with each other, express themselves, have one-on-one conversations. Yet, it has become a habit to enter a social environment, like a sleepover, and find everybody consumed into the apps of their phones. Emilie Despres, from the Bryant University, discusses how students are more concentrated in the messages they receive from peers rather than their real life conversations. It is important to acquire key discussion skills to be successful professionally and socially. Having a normal discussion consists of making eye contact, speaking politely according to the subject of debate, and expressing yourself verbally and facially. It is impossible to maintain a serious conversation in a relationship if you are not able to convey your emotions. Imagine a situation in which an interview is taking place but the newbie is not capable of maintaining eye contact with the boss, causing them a loss in a job opportunity. Communication skills are very important and social media is causing them to disappear from our society.

Another significant problem is how this platform is used among teenagers. Frequent use of social networking can result in a worrying addiction and less time spent doing lively activities. “Young people who spend more than two hours per day on social networking sites are likely to report poor mental health issues”, says the National Post. The 'always-on' aspect of social media can be exhausting, taking a toll on anyone’s mental health. Teens are constantly attached to their phones when they’re not in school or sleeping, as it’s their only source of communication to reach out with friends. Consuming a lot of time on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram means having less time to engage in real exercises that can construct determination and a sense of accomplishment.

Sharing pictures on social media makes teenagers vulnerable to predators, pedophiles, and exposes them to strangers. Predators have a wide range of options to stalk and harm someone because they can obtain their data easily. They can target a juvenil and intrusively request to meet them, call them, or deliver them mails, money, or gifts. Teenagers are not conscious of the risk that they are taking when they share private information like their names, age, and location; eventiall turning them into potential victims of online prawlers. A good example of this would be the case of Mohammed Khalaf Al Ali Alhamadi and his brother Yousef, who tricked 78 12-16 year-olds in the UK. They mislead them to give them their online passwords before threatening them into carrying out improper sex acts via a webcam. Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) center, said “One of the things that we’re undoubtedly seeing is a rise in the use of social networking sites as a channel through which sexual predators can prey on children online.” The Alhadami case is the best representation of this because the victims were significantly hurt physically and psychologically. The pedophiles had hacked into their social networking sites, completely blackmailing and persuading teenagers to perform acts on webcam. It is unbelievable that the predators were able to do this from another country.

Cyberbullying happens when a student takes advantage of a social platform to threaten or embarrass another pupil. Deceiving and telling rumors about another person, posting confidential pictures, or sending violent messages are a few examples of cyberbullying. One of the main issues is that it is mainly done anonymously, which allows the culprit anonymity to express things they would never say as the internet gives them erroneous sensation of security. Cyberbullying can create a lot of harm psychologically to the victim who normally finds himself trapped in the situation, even in their own home. As a consequence, victims start skipping school, doing drugs, and using violence to reciprocate against the tormentors. Jessica Logan was a high school senior who had a serious problem with her boyfriend when he forwarded the nude picture that she had sent to him. This leads to constant harassment and name-calling on behalf of the girls at her school, being the reason behind skipping school and lowering her grades. Eventually, she decided to commit suicide because she felt that it was her best option, which is why her mother was devastated when she found her hanging in the closet with her phone next to her. Self-esteem and mental health rapidly decreases, making the victim’s anxiety rise. This is why every state except Montana has written a law to prevent cyberbullying.

Society today is normally pessimistic and disallowing when talking about social media and teenagers, focusing only on the damage that it may create instead of the benefits that it can generate in a teen’s life. Many resources argue that it can also have many positive effects if used wisely and carefully. How do you think thousands of students in the UK have joined to protest about radical climate action? Well, because they have informed themselves by connecting, sharing and learning online. Large social networks expose teens to important issues and people all over the world. Teenagers are beginning to realize that they can participate in society’s problems because they have a voice they didn’t have before. Now-a-days they are able to do everything from crowdfunding projects to posting positive thoughts. Social media opens a whole world of creativity and ideas that can inspire youngsters to go out of their comfort zones and discover new passions. A great example of a teenager who has used social media positively is Nick D’Aloisio, from south London, and age 17. In 2011, he created an app called Summly, an iPhone app that summarizes broadcast articles. The app intends to shorten and clarify the information we receive in the media. “A south London schoolboy has become one of the world’s youngest tech millionaires after selling his mobile app to Yahoo” says The Telegraph. Nick will dedicate all his time to the web while his studies for his A-levels. He has collected $30 million for the app since it’s launch because it has been downloaded around one million times.

Social media also helps youngsters to remain connected with one another. It allows teens to feel more associated with their friends’ feelings and what is going on with their lives. When it involves friendships and social media, half the kids believe that it helps their relationship. Actually, a study by Common Sense Media shows how 52 percent of teens felt that social media improved their friendships and only 4 percent felt it ruined them. Long-distance friendships are possible because within these platforms teenagers maintain contact with friends who are living in other countries. Technology has advanced to the point that it permits us to see facial expression through video calls and share the tiniest details of our lives by sending pictures or videos.

It was found that nearly 30 percent of social media users believe that social networking makes them feel more confident and outgoing (Common Sense Media). Moreover, when faced with problems such as feeling lonely or dealing with who they are as a person, teenagers often reinforce through online communities that offer support for dilemmas disturbing them. This allows them to connect with others that share similar interests, experiences, and desires. These social platforms help them feel approved and protected in who they are. An example of this could be Joey Graceffa, who was lonely and bullied during his teenage years. YouTube improved his life without a doubt. He became popular when he started oversharing online his problems to millions of people. The viewers of his videos started to realize that they were not the only ones suffering issues and felt less marginalized. The case of Joey Graceffa proves how social media can improve the life of a person by making them feel more supported and understood by those who follow them.

Also, youngsters can look at social networking sites for advice, information, or even for getting answers related to their career objectives. Developing an online presence can help to gather the attention of colleges or future employers. For example, some teens dedicate their free time to Youtube videos or blog posts about their passions. In fact, a young teen who has a passion for reading and writing may create book reviews or film videos with his thoughts and beliefs. If their work receives online popularity they may construct a company that could include; authors, literary agents, and publishers. Building a platform on social media can motivate and assure many opportunities for young adults, as well as help them build a positive online reputation.

Finally, social media has become a source of education that's been improving throughout the years. Schools use it as a tool for students to develop skills such as researching, where they can find reliable information if they seek for the right websites and learn from experts who explain their points of view. Social platforms can improve the quality of content in student’s projects or essays by introducing them to new ideas, providing the student with knowledge from numerous topics and arguments. Additionally, schools benefit from enhanced learning management systems that allow the teachers to combine social media with the lesson plans of the day. This educational program provides students with lesson resources and info through instant video calls or chat functions.

In conclusion, social media can be a very powerful and useful tool if used wisely and with good intentions. However, teenagers are not aware of the harm that it can cause on their mental health. It’s still uncertain how the use of social media will be but society is aiming to improve it to take advantage of all it’s possible benefits. Overtime society has a way of expanding the positives and negatives of our new resources. 

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