There is much said about the negatives of social media, particularly regarding students and how it affects their study. Concerns are often raised that the easy accessibility of sites such as Facebook, on tablets and mobile phones, is distracting teenagers from their school and college work.
Another key area of debate is the level to which children and teenagers are bullied through social media. It’s true to say that kids do check the sites multiple times per day so if they are being bullied it must feel difficult to escape the perpetrators.
However, that being said, there are also several key benefits which social media brings to the lives of children, and adults alike, and these shouldn’t be underestimated.
World of information
There are many social networks available, all of which offer something different in terms of content. This allows students exposure to a whole wealth of information.
Social media encourages students to delve into a particular niche area they are interested in. For example if they want to travel they can explore the lives of other people their own age living in the country they want to visit. Alternatively, if they enjoy a hobby or a sport, there are almost limitless ways to learn more about the subject.
This also extends to subjects kids are studying at school or college. Social media can provide detailed, up-to-date information it wouldn’t always be easy to access through books alone.
Traditionally, going to college meant living away from home on campus and studying full-time from the age of eighteen. This is no longer the only route, and whilst it may still be the case for some students, just as many more study at different ages and life-stages. A large percentage of students will attend college part-time and many will still live at home. Some colleges, such as UCSA, offer even greater accessibility by providing open learning sections of their syllabus which can be undertaken online.
The fact that students are so widespread geographically could have meant colleges have a hard time keeping in contact with everyone who is studying at their institution. However, a perfect solution has been found in the use of social media to keep people connected. It’s a super-fast way to disseminate information to people, and it means questions can be asked and answered in real time.
Connecting with others
Whilst concerns about bullying via social media are valid and need to be addressed, it is also true to say that social media fosters positive connections. Many friendships are made online and sites such as Facebook allow generations of the same family to keep in touch. Even the NHS promotes social media as a way for the elderly to feel less isolated. Children can connect with grandparents and aunts and uncles from wherever they are in the world, and however they busy they are. Whilst it may be almost impossible to get a teenager to write a letter to their Granddad, they will often be keen to check in with them on social media.
Preparing for careers
As much as some people may disparage it, social media and the larger online world are very much a part of the future. This means that kids who grow up web savvy have a distinct advantage in their careers.
Many aspects of commerce are now based around social media marketing and kids understand the intricacies of this naturally as they have been marketed to from a young age. This can be very helpful in whichever career they decide to pursue, because it’s pretty certain one element of it will involve using social media.
Sites such as LinkedIn are also helpful when it comes to looking for a job. Students who are fresh from studying can set up their CV on the site and connect with friends and family to look for a vacancy. It’s amazing how wide a network can spread in this way and personal recommendation is always going to benefit a job seeker.
Social media is in effect a tool and it is how we use the sites which will ultimately decide whether they are a positive force or a negative one. By focusing on the benefits social media can bring, while attempting to negate the disadvantages, we can gain a lot more than we lose through their use.
James is a freelance writer with expertise on a number of creative topics.