Social media is damaging teenager’s mental health
Social media’s mental health impact in Africa research has revealed a worrying trend where parents fear about the dangers of young ones spending a lot of time on social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram among others.Research authors says social media can damage young people’s mental health and wellbeing and those with low self-esteem are particularly at risk.The worry is that children don’t have the skills to manage things if something bad is said, or they might be the ones saying something bad,” author says. “There is a lot of pressure on parents, with kids saying all their friends have it, but as far as I am concerned, the risks outweigh the benefits.” One of the researcher your blogger spoke to says parents in Africa should be on the lookout for increased risk taking behaviors, cyber bullying, depression, exclusion of minority groups and reduced self-image and self-esteem. Teenage girls with body image issues are particularly at risk, researcher says. One study of 2000 children aged 10-17 found even confident social media users are at risk of harm.Cyber bullying is another major issue for many young Africans spending long hours on social networking sites.“The effects of cyber bullying can be profound, including depression, anxiety, isolation and in some cases suicide,” researcher says. “For some, the appeal of cyber bullying comes from the anonymity of the attack, as people are able to communicate things that they would not say face to face.”The flow of information in social media never ceases to amaze. In South Africa, recent viral topics in social media included bullying of a high school student by fellow students and beating of an elementary student in a school compound and such cases have led to a public courtroom on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.A public courtroom in South Africa entails a case, the accused, defendant, persecutor, and judge. In an ideal trial, everyone has his or her own rights and obligations. Everyone has a chance to talk, providing proof and reasoning in order to reach the truth.South Africa social media’s public courtroom follows the law of the jungle where those who are strong win.Social media users build a case around the latest viral news, make their own trial, and become persecutor or defendant. Using their own values, both sides will declare whether the person in the case is guilty or not. Unfortunately, mostly convictions are not based on proof, discussion, or logical reasoning. Simply the numbers of likes, retweets, or followers decide the outcome.Participants merely seek who’s wrong and who’s to blame like was the case Dr Makhosi Khoza resignation.
In the above bullying cases, most netizens automatically took the persecutor’s side, convict the bully for their crime, and dealt out punishment by ironically, bullying the accused.In such cases scores of comments degrade, threaten and mock the bully in the name of justice and revenge. Comments on top are normally for those most likes, regardless of its ethical values or choice of words. As in the jungle, the strongest wins.Sadly, social media users love to judge everything just ask Western Cape Premier Hellen Zille, one of the most respected South African politician who was asked to resign from the Democratic Alliance hierarchy because netizens interpreted her comments on Twitter as racists. Unlike the young vulnerable children, Zille managed to stand her ground despite bowing out, however for the deaths of young people through suicide as a result of online abuse led the researchers to call Africa as the next the worst place in the world for cyber bullying. The researchers also found links between social media use and risk-taking such as substance abuse, sexual behaviour and violence.Research also reveals the impact of social media will vary according to the individual as those with lower self-esteem may access social media more frequently and use it in a different way to someone with a higher level of self-esteem. Social media has enhanced feelings of connectedness for well-adjusted people, but those prone to depression were likely to feel more disconnected.Researchers also found students’ self-esteem was highest when they were updating their social media profiles, particularly because of the ability to selectively self-present by choosing their best photo or personal information. But the same research also links social media use to narcissism, loneliness and body image concerns. On the positive side, researchers say there are benefits for young people from using social media, such as being free to communicate with their peers.In addition, some children benefit from the anonymity, they can be the same as everyone else. The data shows two thirds of 10 to 17 year olds access social media on a mobile, and 90 per cent of 13 to 19 year olds and young people using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets across Africa is increasing.As they say, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a cat or dog or donkey. Combination of anonymous and freedom of speech come at a cost when the fingers are faster than the brain. In real life, people are very careful about what to say and do, because there is the sense of being witnessed by others. In social media, the sense of being witnessed is just not there. This leads to reckless, unnecessary debate or premature judgment. Free speech turns into hate speech real quick affecting both young and old users of the social media sites.