Technological advancement, while largely beneficial, has its flip side. Take the case of Social Media. This is any virtual platform that allows people to interact with each other unhindered by distance and reachability, thereby saving time, energy and money.
The most successful of these social platforms is of course Facebook. At first look and usage, Facebook is a real boon. Long lost friends can reconnect; ordinary people, who until recently only fantasized about communicating with their favourite celebrities, can now actually do so. Most important,it is proving to be a useful tool in business communication enhancing corporate visibility and profits.
But nobody could anticipate Facebook’s addictive nature. People, barely separable by physical distance and hence not needing a social platform, use it and avoid personal interaction. Subtle cues like eye contact, gestures and other aspects of body language, the sheer physical presence that enriches human interaction are replaced by a soulless screen and bits and bytes of information. Aren’t we shortchanging ourselves?
Coming to Facebook and Children. Children are naturally curious, creative, energetic and highly adaptive. Eager to imbibe all that the world has to offer them, they too have excitedly jumped on the social media bandwagon. Socializing is now just a few clicks away, and what is there not to like in such a user friendly platform that helps you air your opinions, gain new friends, become more popular?
But children are, well, children. For them, the now, this moment is everything. A harsh comment, a sudden ganging up of supposed friends who tease mercilessly, a feeling of being left out……they loom disproportionately large in their minds. They do not have the capacity to reason their way out of such situations and the lack of a physical connect only makes it worse. So, they develop habits of checking their ‘status’ every few seconds, anxiety gnawing their insides, insecurity growing by the minute.
Not a happy situation to be in. And the subtle cues touched upon earlier, that contribute to better communication- these are in danger of being stunted in the case of children. Only on-screen interaction robs them of the experiences necessary to develop such useful communication skills. Their emotional quotient is going to be hit. And when they grow up how are they going to navigate the world without these skills?
- How will they face job interviews?
- How will they decide whom to marry?
- How will they know who their true friends are?
The scary part is, while Facebook is officially for children above 13 years of age, a startling statistic reveals that more than 38% of Facebook’s child users are under the age of 12! There is also a real danger to children who obsessively ‘hang around’ social media sites. When they ‘befriend’ unknown people it can have dangerous consequences. They become targets for unsavoury characters like paedophiliacs who will exploit their innocence and vulnerability to satisfy their own ends and destroy the child in the process.
While it is obvious that social media is now an integral part of our lives, we have to monitor its usage by children. We adults could set an example by spending more time with our children in the real world.