What are the Dangers of Social Media for Kids?

The internet can be a great place, when explored safely. The abundance of information available at our fingertips can also be deceptive and dangerous without the proper guidance and filters in place. For example, students have access suicide tips, articles, details about suicide attempts, and self-harm videos from across the globe. 

Within an educational facility without filtering, students can send and receive negative content from each other that include gossip, information about harmful activities, recordings, pictures, participate in conversations, and circulate information and screenshots in group messaging. Having filters in place helps give the students an escape from negative online distractions. 

Online influencers 

In today’s digital world, influencers make up a large part of what students follow online. The influence of these accounts can have a negative impact on the well-being of a young mind. It has been suggested that the rise in teen suicide is connected to social media popularity. 

Influencers such as YouTubers and Instagrammers sometimes glorify acts of violence against themselves and others. Although social media platforms are attempting to monitor and remove this type of content, it is not always caught and can affect a young mind who is contemplating suicide. 

Self-harm 

Many researchers speculate that social media can make self-harm worse for students. Online accounts can contain triggering content that glorifies behaviors like cutting, suicide, and even eating disorders. Students are then tempted to participate in activities that are risky and can result in suicide. 

Online streaming platforms 

These include platforms such as Netflix, Crave TV, Hulu, and YouTube.  

These platforms contain many shows that are inviting to young viewers and portray the many aspects of realistic situations that occur in student’s lives, including the negative outcomes that accompany them (suicide, rape, alcohol, drug abuse, depression, and assault). 

For example, the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why is very popular. This show portrays various problems, pressures, and triggers that teenagers face daily. Assault, bullying, alcohol and drug abuse, gossip, mental health, social media, and suicide are a few of the main items that the show highlights. 

These depictions can influence a young person regardless of the disclaimers. 

Cyberbullying 

Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies such as the internet, social media/networking sites and applications, emails, and SMS text messages used to intimidate or harass others. 

This form of bullying can follow students around 24/7, whether they are at school or at home. 

Social media platforms have the capacity to encourage bullying. People can capture others at their worst and share it. 

Cyberbullying consists of spreading rumors and gossip, excluding others from events and groups, or circulating information in the form of a group chat or social media group which is hurtful to another student or group of students. 

Cyberbullying includes: 

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online
  • Creating a website to make fun of others
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others 

The longer a case of cyberbullying occurs, the more likely the victim is to develop physical, emotional, and psychological scars that can last a lifetime. Bullying can cause youth to become withdrawn, shy, and insecure. Unrelenting bullying can cause children to take their own lives. 

In recent discoveries among parents in discussions on online parent groups, it has come to light that Instagram now contains a specific post etiquette among young adults. 

This includes the placement of best friends, a lover, and acquaintances. If students aren’t tagged by their peers, they aren’t seen as a “real” friend. This leads to a heightened feeling of exclusion within preteen cliques and has caused a spike in a variety of mental health issues, particularly in females. 

Cyber crime 

Cyber crime involves technology devices and a network. The technology device may be used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target of the crime. 

Cyber crime is often convenient and anonymous due to various technology devices, such as the internet (chat rooms, notice boards, emails, and groups) as well as mobile phones. 

There are a variety of cyber crimes that occur, though they can be placed into two broad categories: 

One-off crimes 

Such as installing a virus that steals your personal data. 

Ongoing crimes 

Such as cyberbullying, extortion, distributing child pornography, or organizing terrorist attacks. 

Cyber crime is committed through the internet. Types of cyber crime could include: 

  • Extortion of money
  • Sharing of (personal) information
  • Revenge porn
  • Hacking
  • Copyright infringement
  • Mass-surveillance
  • Online harassment (including obscenities and derogatory comments focused on gender, race, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation)
  • Creating/sharing distasteful, obscene, and offensive content (which can also be illegal, including child pornography, child grooming, and sextortion) 
  • Espionage (spying)
  • Financial theft
  • Identity theft
  • Computer fraud (altering, destroying, stealing, or suppressing output or stored data)
  • Theft of classified information

Victims of cyber crime could experience: 

  • Loss of private or monetary information
  • Harm to their reputation
  • Physical or mental harm
  • Damage to their financial health

The use of social media and its subculture are causing concerns for parents and authorities across the world. 

According to Thomas Claburn, social media platforms make cyber crime “more practical and profitable, at the expense of law-abiding internet users.” 

Social media platforms have as many as 20% more methods that malware can be delivered through (this includes images, videos, advertisements, and plugins). 

How can I help? 

In addition to becoming familiar with the signs of a student at-risk, consider using digital monitoring that can control and monitor the content students access online. nMonitor helps schools create a safe, productive, and positive internet experience for students by making sure they’re protected from inappropriate or malicious content. 

For further in-depth information on this topic, download our free whitepaper on Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Youth.