Are Social Networking websites harmful for young people

Social networking sites such as Bebo, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter have a growth of 47% per year.

It is said that 150 million people in every continent are now using Facebook and approximately half of these users are on this social networking site every day. If Facebook were a country, it would then be the eighth most inhabited in the world, ahead of Japan. Facebook is used in over 35 different languages and 170 countries. The choice and popularity of networking sites appears to be dependant on location and age group, for example Bebo tends to be more popular amongst teenagers in Northern Ireland.Social networking is now more popular than personal email and the fourth most popular online activity. Many consider these sites to be the cause of much suffering and unhappiness for children and teenagers. There are different reasons for this such as sexual predators who exploit these sites putting young people at risk of abuse.

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Most children and teenagers using these sites share a lot of details with their personal friends such as where they are going, their mobile phone number and maybe their address. If the wrong person reads these details they could take advantage of them and start a grooming process.Grooming involves the predator becoming involved in the teenager’s life, getting to know them and developing a trusting but false relationship. However, the predator has one aim only and that is to elicit sexual gratification for himself. Users can place themselves at risk of verbal and even worse, physical or sexual abuse if the two people were ever to meet. From my personal experience of being a member of the social networking site Bebo I realise that there is an enormous amount of competition between users. There are catagories on this website especially for attractive members who are classified as “Bebo Stunners”.

As it is only pictures of the “good-looking” that get uploaded, many members try to get more attention by acting inappropriately for their age. Teenagers may feel they need to put on lots of make-up and maybe pose provocatively. People could take pictures of themselves in revealing clothes to grasp more attention. If they do receive a lot of compliments and admiration, it would be for the wrong reasons and the person could be lead to act even more unacceptably, losing all self-respect. Such images could encourage unwanted attention by people who could assume that the teenager is promiscuous because of the image presented.An individual’s image on these social networking sites can create competitiveness and poor self-esteem can develop when people compare themselves to others. For instance on Bebo it can be seen how many people have viewed each person’s profile as it as known. If someone has less profile views than their friend’s it is possible they could feel upset and discouraged.

This could lower their self-confidence and possibly even lead to depression. On every profile page on Bebo the number of “loves” each person has is shown. Everyone gets three to give away everyday. Some people have thousands and others hundreds.This is a further way people can feel less popular than their friends which can then their view of themselves. These social networking sites for teenagers that seem to revolve around image cause a lot of conflict for the “good-looking” people as well. Those that feel less popular can easily set up a fake profile using pictures of someone else that they think would attract attention and admiration.

They then get to know people through the networking site pretending to be someone they are not, writing all the information about the person that they are pretending to be.Then if anyone views this site who is friendly with the victim they would grasp things about that person that were not true. The person who created the false profile could hide behind this bogus identity and give verbal abuse. The person displayed in the picture could then suffer the consequences for someone else’s actions. From my use of Bebo I had a small paragraph describing what I liked and disliked and a distant friend copied and pasted everything that I had written about me to make it look as if she had written it about her.

It did not annoy me, I just thought that the person must be very insecure to want to be like someone else.People who use these networking sites can easily become addicted and as I stated above over half of the 150 million people who use Facebook are on it every day. When you are using these sites, looking at people, pictures of new events and catching up in conversation the time flies by. Many children and teenagers stay on their PC to the early hours in the morning, including school nights which affects their concentration levels the next day.

Children who are addicted to these sites tend to interact less with people face to face and do not go outdoors often.Rather than being on the computer they could be outside doing more physical things, getting more exercise. Even traditional family life as we know it could suffer as with little communication and less time spent together, relationships could become strained. If family bonds are not close, parental values and standards may not be as acceptable to the young people. People’s actions on these sites can have very harmful consequences. It has been said that some teenage suicides have been caused by abuse within social networking sites such as the one I use. I have never encountered any abuse and I have had my profile since April 2006.My profile is private which means the only people who can look at my pictures, my details and my conversations with friends are only those that I have allowed.

If anyone added me as a friend that I did not know I would not accept him or her. I believe if you accept an unknown person as a friend you are putting yourself at risk of receiving abuse. In my view all these risks can be avoided when you use social networking sites sensibly and abide by the site’s terms and conditions. If you have your profile on private and only accept personal friends this will stop any risk of predators obtaining your information.

Also if you understand that it is not all looks and that personality is also extremely important. Furthermore to be really “loved” you do not have to have thousands of profile views. If anyone starts to verbally abuse you they can be easily “blocked” or removed as a friend and cannot therefore leave anything on your page. When your profile is private that would prevent anyone from taking your pictures and making a fake profile because it would be only your friends you have chosen to see them. I think the many uses of social networking sites are brilliant.

I have become much closer to a lot of my friends as it is an easy way of conversation.Friends can easily chat to one another safely when their page is private about what has happened within the last few hours since you have last seen them. Another advantage of these sites is that you can share pictures with people. You can upload thousands of pictures if you wish and it is an easy way for friends and family abroad to look at special occasions they have missed. These pictures can be kept for many years and it is an easy way to look back and enjoy old memories.

Friends commenting on photos giving compliments can boost your confidence. However it is only the views of those who are close to you that matters.If it is your friend they are not going to criticise you so you would doubtfully get verbal abuse from them unless you had a row with one of them. In that case it should be understood that the most appropriate way to fix an argument is not through the internet but face to face. People who regularly use social networking websites are usually quick at typing. I know if I did not use Bebo I would not be as fluent at typing as I am now. This is a very useful skill as computers are essential in many jobs.

When social networking sites are used wisely I do not think that they are harmful to young people.If the site and the profile are set to private I believe that this will avoid virtually all the risk factors of predators, any sense of competition and people using your pictures for fake profiles. All these actions should reduce the possibility of depression and at worse suicide.

In my opinion the function of these websites can provide a forum for easy chatting, sharing pictures and improving relationships. I certainly feel this to be safe for young people however if a person under the age of eighteen signs up, the profile should be automatically kept private.This will give the person under eighteen the choice to accept or decline anyone that has requested them as a friend. If they are known then they can use these sites wisely and the relationship between the two people could possibly grow. If the person that has made a request to be a friend, is unknown, it should be declined.

There are too many opportunities that enable undesirable people to view your personal profile. In my view if these risk-reducing measures were to be taken on board, the harmful effects of social networking sites would be reduced.