This was our final assignment for this unit of the Preparing for Success Program. I no longer have the exact task information, or the mark received for this assignment, however I received an overall Distinction for this unit. My unit teacher was impressed with my essay despite a few small critical feedback comments, I was happy with the feedback I received.
Please note my writings are published for educational purposes only, all of my works have been submitted to Turnitin so please do not copy and paste or you will be flagged for plagiarism. My reference list is included at the bottom.
TOPIC: Using social media enhances adolescent well-being.
The growth of social media has introduced significant changes to how adolescents relate to and interact with their peers. Over the last ten years, social media use has increased tenfold with young adults consistently being amongst the highest number of users (Perrin, 2015). The negative impacts of high social media use present a significant potential to undermine the positive development of social and emotional welfare of adolescents. To highlight the harmful effects of excessive social media use on adolescent well-being, issues will be discussed such as the role internet addiction plays in the development of social disorders, privacy and safety issues concerning the oversharing of personal information, the inability to form deep, nurturing relationships via social networking sites and the impacts of an aspect of cyberbullying that is commonly perceived to be relatively benign but can have surprisingly large effects on an adolescent. While social networking sites have a great potential to be a positive influence in some areas of adolescent growth, there is much research to suggest adolescent use of social media is not beneficial to enhancing well-being in the long term, particularly when misused and/or overused.
Excessive use of social networking sites suggestive of internet addiction has been linked to several social impairment disorders amongst adolescents (Michikyan & Suárez-Orozco, 2016 ). Ha et al. (2007) defined internet addiction as an individual’s inability to control their internet use which results in severe distress and/or impaired functionality in their daily life. Adolescents typically use social media to post status updates, share photos and videos, and text message with others using various social apps (Perrin, 2015). Young people may be more susceptible to obsessive internet usage as they are more likely to enthusiastically pursue activities that interest them, and use such activities to escape problems in other areas of their lives (Ha et al., 2007). Adolescents bearing the hallmarks of internet addiction have been found to show more symptoms of ADHD, depression, hostile behaviours and social fears (Michikyan & Suárez-Orozco, 2016; Yen et al, 2007). These symptoms, along with the associated heavy internet use, may hinder an adolescent’s ability to form the social skills needed to navigate everyday life outside the internet. The lack of social interaction and social skills combined with the amount of time spent online diminishes the potential of social networking sites to benefit youth well-being.
Consistently using social media to share aspects of everyday life and disclose personal information activates the same area of the brain responsible for the chemical reaction to activities that generate pleasurable feelings (Tamar & Mitchell, 2012 ). In their Harvard University study, Tamar & Mitchell (2012) found that sharing personal information to a public medium was inherently satisfying and stimulated the brain to release small amounts of dopamine, in much the same way an addict’s brain responds after the consumption of an addictive substance. Adolescents using social networking sites to discloses personal information about themselves poses a significant risk to their safety, as often very little thought is given to the risks of posting large amounts of information online (Agosto & Abbas, 2017). Facebook is currently the most highly used social networking site (Perrin, 2015), with interactions primarily based on status updates, photo sharing, comments and likes; followed closely by Instagram and Twitter. Today’s teenagers are amongst the first to have been predominantly surrounded by social media as they navigate their way through the rapid growth cycle of puberty (Ahn, 2011). Sharing too much of their personal lives on social networking sites before maturing enough to understand the risks bears an immense threat to both physical safety and emotional well-being.
Adolescents are especially prone to feeling a deep need to fit in with their peers, and feel anxious if they believe they are missing out, moreover young people are becoming increasingly reliant on social media to satisfy social connections and feel popular (Beyens, Frison & Eggermont, 2016). Wood , Bukowski & Lis (2016) stressed the importance of meaningful relationships for the social development of young people, focusing on the overall well-being of pre-adolescents and adolescents. The quality of adolescent friendships bears a considerable potential to protect them from negative outcomes and can provide a positive support network for young people experiencing stressful situations (Valkenburg, Peter & Schouten, 2006). Valkenburg, et al. (2006) also asserted that adolescent self-esteem was impacted by the nature of feedback received via social media, stating that positive feedback enhanced youth self-esteem while negative feedback decreased it . Friendships created and maintained online often do not progress into closer, more meaningful offline connections or lead to an increase in the size of offline support networks (Pollet, Roberts & Dunbar, 2010). Superficial relationships as most commonly made via social media do not provide the supportive environment adolescents need to promote healthy self-esteem and enhance well-being.
Cyberbullying amongst adolescents is increasing as the number of young people using social networking sites to socialise with their peers grows. While it was noted that some countries have different definitions of what constitutes cyberbullying, it could be agreed that intention, repetition, power imbalance, being anonymous and whether the attack is public or private are among the defining characteristics of direct cyberbullying (Menesini et al, 2012). Langos (2012) added aggression to the list and suggested that the central bullying components have maintained their relevance in relation to cyberbullying. Indirect cyberbullying typically transpires when intimidation is not focused at the target directly, instead using social networking sites and other public networks (Langos, 2012). Social loneliness followed by emotional loneliness as the group isolates the victim was found to lower self-esteem more than traditional direct bullying (Brighi et al., 2012). A cybersurvey conducted in the UK revealed a trend of indirect cyberbullying by adolescents being ostracised and deliberately left out by their peers that appeared to be more damaging than direct cyberbullying (Katz, 2012). This was often felt to be more painful than being targeted face to face (Katz, 2012; see also Brighi et al., 2012). Adolescents using social media to obtain the friendship and/or admiration of their peers only to be intentionally excluded and socially isolated may encourage the young person to spend increasing amounts of time online to garner peer approval to the detriment of their well-being.
While the many risks of adolescent use of social media are well documented, there is some research to suggest that social media has a significant potential to be a positive influence on learning and education, providing a support network for young people in remote areas while promoting healthy exploration of their identities, as well as gaining IT (information technology) skills that may then aid them in future employment opportunities, when used wisely. Greenhow (2011) argued that social networks promoted a positive support network for learning and social advantages for education, allowing adolescents easy and instant access to education resources. Such access and supportive networks could be particularly beneficial to adolescents living in remote communities, aiding the socially disadvantaged to become more technologically competent and allowing better access to information, advice and support. (Swist, Collin, McCormack & Third, 2015). Additionally, the ability to emotionally connect with others and feel part of a community via social networking may aid young people to create a strong sense of self-identity, by feeling that they are accepted by trusted friends and more able to express themselves in what they consider to be a safe environment (Swist et al., 2015). Furthermore, as digital technologies become more entrenched in every aspect of life, adolescents will benefit from the opportunities to develop the range of computer and internet related skills needed to plan career paths and seek employment in future years (Messersmith, Garrett, Davis-Kean, Malanchuk & Eccles, 2008). Nonetheless, the research clearly indicates that the potential benefits of social media use on adolescent welfare are heavily outweighed by the many risks and negative impacts.
It is evident that today’s youth, having been the among first to grow up enveloped by social media, have come to rely heavily on social networking in almost every aspect of their lives. Such reliance carries many risks to adolescents, with high immersion in the online world creating a dependence to the internet and generating symptoms of social disorders. Moreover, young people feeling a deep need to belong and fit in with their peers are more likely to pursue risky behaviours, disregarding security and privacy recommendations as they publicly share information that may pose a risk to their safety. Furthermore, the superficial interactions of social networking sites also decrease the potential of supportive networks to develop into the quality friendships that adolescents need to assist them to mature emotionally. Additionally, the fear of missing out makes an adolescent especially vulnerable to the effects of cyberbullying, becoming socially isolated and excluded from their peers. The many adverse effects of social media use amongst adolescents carries considerable dangers to the healthy development of self-esteem with substantial research to suggest using social media is not beneficial to enhancing youth well-being.
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