This essay will analyze the impact that social media has on teenagers all around the world. More specifically, this essay will guide the reader through three of the most striking repercussions that result when teenagers abuse these types of media: cyber-stalking, poor interpersonal relationships, and bullying. From Facebook to MySpace to Twitter to Tumblr, these sites undoubtedly provide both positive and negative consequences to our world’s youth… The question is: Do the negative outweigh the positive?
“Home alone! I love this! And the ‘rents won’t be back ‘till 6!!!” You may think that a post like this on a social networking site should not be harmful at all. After all, you’re just letting your friends know what you’re up to! However, online stalkers and pedophiles may use this seemingly benign piece of information for more malicious ends. According to a 2007 Pew Internet Research Report, over half (55 percent) of teens now use online social networking sites. (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith & Zickuhr) The latter have diminished one-on-one interactions and have simultaneously provided an easy, impersonal way to harass people without any apparent immediate consequences. It is true that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter enable friends to keep in touch and can be used to “document school research, promote artistic talents and experiment with other forms of content creation.” (Hall) However, along with these benefits come some serious risks: especially since these sites are extremely addicting. The excessive use of social networks, especially by teens, has brought upon severe effects on society that should not be taken lightly: cyber-stalking, poor interpersonal relationships, and bullying. When analyzing this topic, one must point out that, as a consequence of their excessive use of
social networks, teens have become the main victims cyber-stalking. First off, unsuspecting, naïve teens are less conscious about conveying personal information that most adults would never give away to strangers. An actual case of cyber-stalking against young adults occurred when, in accordance with the Justice Department of the United States, “an honors graduate from the University of San Diego terrorized five female university students over the Internet for more than a year. The victims received hundreds of violent and threatening e-mails, sometimes receiving four or five messages a day. The graduate student, who has entered a guilty plea and faces up to six years in prison, told police he committed the crimes because he thought the women were laughing at him.” (Easttom) Furthermore, when teens give away information in social networking sites, they are not only putting themselves in great danger but also involving their families. Last but not least, teen bloggers are an extremely easy target for these online stalkers. A study of sixty-eight random web-blogs written by teens of ages 13-17 by the Northwestern University revealed that “teen bloggers often willingly give away all their personal information putting them in high risk and making them easy target for cyber stalkers.” (Leopold) It is evident that teens and young adults are more liable to disclose more personal information online, making them easy targets for stalkers. The fact that cyber-stalking doesn’t involve direct contact might create the erroneous illusion that it is milder than actual physical stalking. Nonetheless, this could not be more wrong. As the Internet (and social networks) becomes a more fundamental part of our daily lives, cyber-stalkers are using it to access our personal information. Without the excessive use of these sites, would cyber-stalking such an eminent issue? It is our unfortunate dependence on these sites that make us so vulnerable and more prone to be victims of such a frightening issue that grows larger every single day. It is understandable that teens depend on social networks to keep in touch with friends who they do not see regularly. However, the fact that 91 percent of teens use social networks to maintain friendships with friends who they already see frequently causes some degree of concern. (Frazier) This is concerning because the dependence in social networks is detrimental to society, seeing as it creates poor interpersonal communications. When people communicate through a computer or cellphone screen, they lose one-on-one social contact skills.
Comments and opinions conveyed through the Internet tend to be less tactful, too. Badoo These disadvantages can lead to a degradation of conversations and to misunderstandings, which could easily be avoided by just taking the time to talk in person. Also,… less friends.. Social Net. Moreover, when teenagers spend so much of their time online, they fall into a dysfunctional lifestyle were vital activities such as sleeping, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, keeping up with school, and spending quality time with friends and family become subordinate to using their computers or cellphones. In 2003, researchers at the City University of New York conducted a study regarding the effects of at-home computer use on young children. They found that young children who excessively used the computer (for over 8 hours a week) spent significantly less time playing sports or taking part in beneficial outdoor activities. They were also found to have “substantially heavier body mass index.” (Frazier)4 Kids are said to be the future, but if this is happening to our world’s kids, what does that say about the world we are aspiring to build? Amongst all effects of the use of social networks, bullying may be deemed as the most troubling one. Thanks to the impersonal manner of online interactions, people tend to say (or type) things they normally would not say in person. Considering this, one may say that teenagers online have the urge to feel “cool”, accepted, or even admired. Though they may not be as cruel in person as they are online, the pressure of having to stand out drives many of them to bully fellow teens that may have a less dominant personality. For instance, bullies may publicize private instant messages, text messages or e-mails, post threatening messages or photos that will cause embarrassment and, most commonly, spread rumors. Even though some victims may ignore this harassment, this is not the common case. Most of the kids who have been bullied online take desperate measures to put an end to their humiliation. As a consequence, most of the targets, who are usually emotionally unstable, choose a permanent solution to this temporary problem: suicide. For example, there is the case of Megan Meier. She was a 13-year-old girl who had self-esteem issues but was, overall, content with her life. It all started when a cute boy by the name of Josh Evans befriended her on MySpace. They started messaging each other, but Evans’ compliments soon turned to insults. Then, suddenly, Megan got a message from Evans saying “I don’t know if I
want to be friends with you any longer because I hear you’re not nice to your friends”. Then, the Evans started posting public comments calling her fat and a ‘slut’. “The stress and frustration was too much for Megan, who had a history of depression. Tina Meier, her mother, discovered her daughter’s body in a bedroom closet on Oct. 16, 2006. Megan had hanged herself and died a day later.” (Good Morning America) Afterward, it was discovered that Josh Evans never existed. This was a fake account that Megan’s ex-best friend created with the help of her mother in order to “get back” at Megan for some rumor that she had allegedly spread. They claim that they did not mean for Megan to commit suicide. But this is not enough. Megan is gone now thanks to cyber-bullying, and nothing can replace her. All in all, the conclusion is evident: social networks, like everything in life, are only beneficial to certain extent. When these enable people to track you down, one should surely realize that it has gone too far. When these start replacing inter-personal relationships, one should realize that it has gone too far. When these take over your life, driving you to the point of wanting to leave this world, one should realize that it has gone too far. Luckily, we are not too late. We still have time to turn off those computers and cell phones, go outside, and take a deep breath of fresh, real air. After all, what W. Clement Stone once wrote is very true: “You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success- or are the holding you back?”
Lenhart, Amanda. Purcell, Kristen. Smith, Aaron. Zickuhr, Kathyrn. (2010, February 3). Social media and mobile Internet use among teens and young adults. Retrieved October 22nd, 2012 from http://web.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Social_Media_and_Young_Adults_Report_Final_with_toplines.pdf
Hall, Sharon Hurley. (2012). Life123.org. Retrieved November 1st, 2012 from http://www.life123.com/parenting/tweens-teens/social-networking/issues-with-teens-and-social-networking.shtml
Easttom, William. (2012, February 1). Cyber stalking, fraud, and abuse. Retrieved November 1st, 2012 from http://www.pearsonitcertification.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1825167&seqNum=4
Leopold, Wendy. (2006, February 19). Study finds teen bloggers at risk for cyberstalking. Retrieved October 22nd, 2012 from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-02/nu-sft021706.php
Frazier, Karen. (2011). Are Social Networks Harmful to Society?. Retrieved November 1st, 2012 from http://socialnetworking.lovetoknow.com/Are_Social_Networks_Harmful_to_Society
Good Morning America (2007, November 19). Cyber bullying led to teen suicide. Retrieved October 23rd, 2012 from http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3882520&page=2
 Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media and mobile Internet use among teens and young adults. Retrieved October 22nd, 2012 (See Bibliography)
 Hall, S. (2012). Life123. Retrieved November 1st, 2012 (See Bibliography)
 Easttom, W. (2012, February 1). Cyber stalking, fraud, and abuse. Retrieved November 1st, 2012 (See Bibliography)
 Frazier, K. (2011). Are Social Networks Harmful to Society? Retrieved November 1st, 2012 (See Bibliography)
 Good Morning America (2007, November 19). Cyber bullying led to teen suicide. Retrieved October 23rd, 2012 (See Bibliography)