Social Media: Friend or Foe?
Over the past century mankind has made inordinate advances in innumerable fields within a relatively short span. This great leap forward took hold in the 21st century owing to the availability of new technology and novel innovations prevalent in this era. Incidentally, futurists contended that technological advancements will herald a new era and influence every facet of human life. Thus, the Information Age soon became a plausible reality, with pundits predicting that it would greatly influence the economic systems that would now depended on information technology. Similarly, the development of the internet accorded innovators a unique opportunity for exploitation and promoting improved interactions between human beings. The general idea was to seemingly create a knowledge –based society where top-notch technology would be implemented to influence computer microminiaturization and the development of nascent communication platforms (Kowalski, et al. 34). Social media thus emerged from this premise seeking to provide an interface where computer-mediated advancements could be harnessed appropriately hence promoting the transfer of ideas and information. It is therefore an undisputed fact that social media has been responsible for the creation of virtual communities where individuals interact through a wide range of web-based applications. In essence, a farmer in rural Iowa can now communicate directly with a nomad on the steppes of Mongolia through web-based technologies that allow them to share messages instantaneously. These drastic changes have brought about sudden modifications in human interaction and transfer of information that differs greatly from paper-based media. One of its distinctive features is its shift from mono-logic traditional dissemination of information toa new style of interaction. Nonetheless, it is vital to remember that social media is a double-edged sword that bredcyber-bullying amongst young individuals. The purpose of this argumentative essay is, therefore, to elucidate the position that social media is a contemporary foe, with a special focus on the rise of cyber-bullying as a new-fangled phenomenon.
Firstly, social media has had a relatively negative influence on society with regard to creating ideal opportunities for bullies to seek out new victims. In this social media epoch, nearly 71 % of American teens participate actively in a social networking website(“Cyberbullying: How to Make it Stop | Scholastic.com”). With such huge numbers of potential victims surfing the inter-webs, bullies have discovered a new niche to exploit mostly targeting vulnerable individuals. Prior to the introduction of social media, bullying often involved a small clique of individuals who would ordinarily derive pleasure from harassing their counterparts. Though harrowing, these face-to-face interactions had a silver lining of their own. Victims were familiar with the perpetrators and could even avoid them. Contrary to popular belief, the number of individuals being subjected to such forms of harassment was lower then, compared to those of individuals currently grappling with cyber-bullying. According to the National Crime Prevention Council on Cyber-bullying Research Report (NCPCCRP), 43 % of middle and high school students admit to being harassed in online spaces(“Cyberbullying Continues to Challenge Educators”). It is vital to acknowledge that this phenomenon was made possible by the introduction of the social media portent that seemingly created a new realm for prospective bullies. In reality, social media has also made the situation worse making victims easy pickings for their tormentors. They are unable to hide from them and are easily humiliated in public forums with thousands of participants. Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Whatsapp allow users to create these group mediums meant to aid in sharing vital information in real-time. Unfortunately, they soon become openings for cyber-bulling cases where teens have been particularly known to abuse this privilege. School administrators are at this battle’s front-line advising students to act responsibly while in online spaces. Students are thus expected to be constantly aware of the contents they intend to post online and whether or not it has the capability of adversely affecting others.
Social media has also emboldened bullies, making them even more callous and without the possibility of them being sanctioned for their actions. Cyber-bullies have now come up with new and innovative ways to harass persons and ultimately becoming the bane of their victim’s existence. One way is through fake profiles that use pseudonyms. Behind this veneer they can post mean and hurtful material with malicious intent knowing fully that their real identity will remain a mystery(“Kids on Social Media and Gaming”). The misuse of these websites and applications has also been further worsened by the Communications Decency Act. Through this piece of legislation, web operators cannot be held liable for any inappropriate behavior that takes occurs on their online platforms. The result is a breeding ground for bullies who are well aware of the fact that they can get away with these heinous and vile acts. Moreover, the introduction of social media also made it possible for bullies to operate incognito, therefore making vulnerable students regular targets. In sites such as 4chan, Chatroulette, Foursquare, and Stickam users have the ability to send messages anonymously to select individuals. As a result, messages are sent anonymously with the victims being unable to fathom their origin. It is particularly worse in the case of rumors spread since they can reach a large audience in a short amount of time. Through social media, bullies have been able to hatch elaborate plans on how to lash out and abuse their targets while being fully aware that their identities will remain a mystery. Nevertheless, teachers and school administrators can deal with this problem by immersing themselves in social media and comprehending the various dynamics in play. Through such actions they gain insight into all happenings around them, learning the slang currently in vogue and being aware of students who are habitually targeted for harassment. In so doing, they are able to intervene and provide counseling and avert eventualities such as suicide.
Thirdly, social media has had a deleterious effect on the psychosocial state of students in learning institutions across the country. In most cases, those targeted by cyber-bullies are normally individuals at the furthest fringes of society. They typically hail from low-income families, a broken home, are insecure about their physical appearance and position in societal stratum. It is estimated that 61% of such individuals are ordinarily suffering from depression even before having to deal with their peer’s ruthless(“Cyberbullying Continues to Challenge Educators”). What is even more shocking is the fact that victims opine that bullying is a rite of passage that every school-going individual has to go through. They, therefore, fail to inform their parents or guardians whenever it occurs and, as a result, gets worsens as time goes by. Cyber-bullies take advantage of such situations to constantly taunt their victims to a point where some end up become clinically depressed. An immediate consequence of these actions is a steady drop in academic performance since they are unable to concentrate on their education. Their thoughts are usually preoccupied with the harsh comments that they read online which ultimately affects their psychological equilibrium. Absenteeism in victims of cyber-bullying is rife with some even preferring to quit school altogether. Social media thus ends up becoming an impediment to education. Schools are supposed to be the best years of an individual’s life, especially since they are quite impressionable and able to learn efficiently. Social media prevents this process from taking root since the primary preoccupation of victims is the constant barrage of insults that usually comes towards their direction. Teachers can help prevent such eventualities by being involved in their student’s lives. By so doing they can observe the emotional energy that students bequeath and hence being able to point out, with accuracy, a situation that warrants their attention. Spending time with the students during recess in the hallways and lunch hour allows them to observe any sudden changes and students being ostracized by their colleagues.
Even with a large majority of schools adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards cyber-bullying, a grey area still exists when tackling inappropriate out-of-school behavior. Strict codes of conduct have made it clear to students that they are bound by the school rules even when away from the school premises. The reason why this is the case is often due to students usually having unsupervised time which can be spent engaging in retrogressive activities. Students may be attacked during this period, but the theatre of confrontation is the school since this is where they face their tormentors. It is for this reason that educational institutions have sought to broaden the scope of intervention, playing an active role in social networking sites. Common Core State Standards(CCSS) have been implemented across the United States to make certain that students feel safe while at school and free from stress. Manual and computer administrated assessments have recently been utilized to ascertain the general well-being of students. On the other hand, controversy still exists with regard to the extent to which punitive measures can be executed. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been at the forefront of ensuring that administrator’s actions do not end up being an affront to the freedom of speech. After the Tinker v. Des Moines 393 U.S503 (1969)and the Wisniewski v. Board of Education rulings the Tinker Standard was implemented, limiting the powers that were previously enjoyed by teachers(“We Hate Ashley”). Before implementing any punitive measure for off-site behavior, schools had to prove that these particular actions were of a foreseeable nature. This meant that they had the foresight of causing a form of disruption within the learning environment. Administrators have developed feasible strategies to surmount this challenge. Clearly defining the schools code is one such approach that often makes certain that the rules and regulations are reviewed in the presence of both parents and students.
In finality, social media is relatively newfangled innovation with undesirable effects while promoting cyber-bullying amongst school-going children. Social media was responsible for introducing cyber-bullying into the mainstream, allowing perpetrators to hassle their targets anonymously which often resulted in adversative psychosocial effects. Even with the implementation of zero-tolerance policies to deal with this problem, there are those who still believe in free speech espousing the Tinker Standard before making any determination.