Opportunities: what are the advantages of social media?
-Acquiring social skills: social media is a platform for building and maintaining relationships and sharing and exchanging ideas. This is particularly important for children and young people, as they appreciate this sense of belonging. Adolescence is also the time when we detach ourselves from our parents, and virtual communities can help in this process. They offer a space in which teenagers find themselves among their peer group, without their parents.
-Develop their own identity: thanks to their friends’ comments, children and young people can test what others like or dislike. This contributes in an essential way to the construction of their own identity. In addition to the family, the school, and young people of the same age, social networks thus constitute a non-negligible instance of socialization.
-Being with your friends, always and everywhere: social networks allow you to be close to your friends, even when you are alone. We can communicate spontaneously and in real time.
-Find similar people: whatever interests children and young people; in virtual communities, they can meet people from all over the world who share the same interests.
-Get informed: social networks allow you to share information and ideas, and to keep up to date with news or upcoming events.
Risks: what should parents be aware of?
The age limit can easily be circumvented: most social networks set the minimum age at 13 years old. In 2018, as part of new EU data protection legislation, WhatsApp raised the age limit to 16. However, the user will only have to confirm that he/she is of the required age. There is no real control, even for other services.
Multitasking: ensuring that children and young people are not distracted from, for example, doing their homework. When young people study using the computer while connected to social networks, it diverts their attention. This tendency to multitask is also because they are afraid of missing something.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) refers to a person's worry about missing out on something seemingly interesting, of not being aware of what is going on. This expression is often linked to the use of social networks. Behind this, however, lies a primitive fear of being excluded from society.
Here are some signs that reveal a problematic approach or use of social networks:
-Depression or frustration seeing what others are going through or feeling.
-Nervousness is when you don't know what others are doing, or fear that they are going through something better than you are.
-Willingness to always be connected to view or post information.
-The boundaries with addiction are sometimes blurred → Cyberaddiction
Social pressure: communication on social networks obeys its own rules. Not following one of his/her followers in turn is frowned upon. Also, most of the time other users can see if one is online or not. We can therefore feel obliged to respond or be disconcerted if the people contacted do not respond. Services like Snapchat also increase the pressure to be always online. The platform indeed indicates the number of days during which we have been in contact with someone without interruption, which pushes some young people to a kind of competition.