New Media and the Young

While all media are ‘new’ when they were first invented, ‘New Media’ are defined as “those digital media that are interactive, incorporate two-way communication and involve some form of computing” (Logan 2010). New digital technologies are extremely swift and have made it easy to process, store, transform and retrieve data. It has created alternate virtual and augmented realities that are almost as immersive as the real world.

Social Networking Sites (SNS) are a part of new media and play an extremely significant role in our lives today. Social media helps the user to connect to and team with others. It allows her to contribute and share content. It gives a platform to express both positive and negative feedback in real-time.

Children and adolescents take to technology quickly. Thanks to smartphones, Social Networking Sites have become easily accessible to them and, by their very design, have also become an inextricable part of their lives, profoundly influencing their minds, bodies and behaviour.

Favorable Consequences

Social Networking has helped teenagers in myriad, indisputable ways:

Education: The academic benefits of social media to adolescent users are apparent. Study materials can be easily accessed and shared. Children who have difficulty coping with schoolwork can avail of tutorials that are specifically designed to cater to students with differing learning capabilities. Children can explore and research other subjects too. They can also explore the courses offered in different universities in their country and abroad since most institutions themselves have a social media presence. Videos and articles help them to learn and improve their abilities, learn new skills, and become creative. Social media serves as a platform to upload new ideas and skills.

General Awareness: Social media helps the youth to be updated and informed on current issues, trends, and technologies. A 2016 study (Badri et al) asked schoolchildren why they accessed social media and “the two reasons with the highest means were “to keep in touch with family and friends” and “to find information”.

Learning Skills and Employment: Social networking can help children develop several skills. It also helps them to get jobs.

Assistance: It helps them to reach out to others for help when they are in trouble. It provides information to deal with immediate crises, whether physical or psychological. Maps help them to find and reach their destination and also share their location in real-time. It thus helps them to stay relatively safe when they are traveling. People with disabilities can avail of different services, from education to connecting with others, entertainment, and shopping.

Self-Expression: Social media provides a platform for self-expression. Thus even children who are otherwise shy and inhibited feel comfortable sharing their beliefs and reaching out to others online. It can help develop their personality.

Social media allows children to reach out to others. The platform is such that they feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Thus they are able to befriend others online and also get emotional help. This reduces their sense of loneliness (Bradley 2019).

Respect for self and for others: Being a part of groups and being connected to others help children to feel more accepted. The appreciation they get from others promotes their self-esteem and self-worth. Interacting with different people and understanding life beyond their physical space helps them to develop a better understanding of the world and people. It can thus be a medium to encourage tolerance and acceptance (Al Arabiya 2012).

These are but a few of the positive outcomes of social media. However, like all technologies, online Social Networking Sites also have some inherent flaws.

(To be continued)

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