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In: Social Media

Social networking has become an inseparable aspect of modern life. It provides an interactive platform to the people sharing common interests, and to promote goods and services. Some of the famous social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook, Orkut, Tumblr, Picasa, BlackBerry Messenger, WhatsApp, and Yahoo! Messenger, etc. have helped many in staying in touch with their loved ones. SNSs have also widened the horizon of e-marketing with social media tools like YouTube, LinkedIn and many more.

Mobile internet and latest hand devices like tablets and smart phones have made it easier for us to stay connected with our virtual world. Every year, India adds a new figure to the ever growing audiences of the SNSs. The trend of social networking has noticeably picked up pace among the youth. Depending upon the types of usage, the social networking may leave a good or a bad effect on the users. Young minds are vulnerable to fall into the traps of cybercrime because of lack of awareness and peer pressure. Let’s have a look how the SNSs affect young minds in both the good and the bad ways:

Why Social Networking is good for the Growing Minds?

Intelligent, smart and constructive use of the SNSs can help in learning about the new things and in gaining information about the latest happenings of the world. Globalization and escalating competition in the education sector has pushed the students to gain all-round knowledge. Various online communities and forums can help the students, of different backgrounds, in exchanging their views about current topics or on any topic of their choice.

The SNSs and the social media tools are helpful in connecting to the world. By logging on to your favourite SNSs you can know, within a few seconds, about the happenings of the world. For example, at the time of the devastating hurricane Sandy many Facebook pages and online pages were formed discussing havoc instigated by the hurricane, in the US. Similarly, SNSs have also contributed in bringing awareness about social causes like cancer awareness campaigns, organ donations and fund collections for a noble cause. Lately, a number of online campaigns were run in the support of Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption in which youth deliberately took part. In short, the SNSs are helpful in empowering the young minds by making them aware about the emerging issues.

How Social Networking can be bad for the Youth?

Just like a coin, social networking also has two facets – good and bad. Although SNSs can prove really helpful in empowering the minds of the youth, it can prove terrible for the others if not used in a right way. As we grow up, we go through various phases of life. Adolescence is one such stage in our life when we get angry over tertiary issues and are overwhelmed by a small gesture of warmth and love of our friends. Sometimes the adolescents on the SNSs handle certain situations in the cyber world callously and ultimately fall into the traps of cyber crimes, without even knowing the consequences of certain online activities.

Many online communities are free to use with a few flexible conditions like the minimum age limit of 18 -years. The authenticity of the information thus provided by the users is not thoroughly checked by the organisations concerned. This results in fake accounts and multiple accounts of a single user. Fake accounts of celebrities are also formed that directly or indirectly affect their reputation.

Many users of SNSs spend much time on the internet in incognito mode, stalking the personal activities of their friends and classmates. Stalking is considered a cyber crime and is punishable by law. The risk of identity theft also prevails as strangers added to your friend list can browse your personal information and use it for their personal benefits.

Recently, AVG Technologies, a global leader in security software, brought into the light the fact that pre-teens are writing malware designed to steal login details of the users of online gaming communities. Today’s digitally fluent generation is swifter in understanding the usage of smart phones, tablets and laptops as compared to the previous generations. An increase in the cases of mobile threat, email threat and online abuse are the result of too much exposure to the internet. These young minds don’t even fear the prospect of going to jail. In fact, they regard themselves as the Che Guevaras of cyber space. If the wrongful online activities of the youth are not corrected at the right time then it could lead to worse consequences, later on.

The Ugly Side of Social Networking:

There is an immediate need to make the youth understand the gravity of the consequences of using inappropriate language on SNSs. Abusing and stalking someone is a crime. When someone is found guilty of using abusive language for someone online then he or she may be prosecuted under cyber crime law in India. Several incidences have taken place in cities like Chandigarh and Mumbai when people have been sued for uploading inappropriate pictures of their female friends on the SNSs. In most of the cases the cause behind such behaviour is jealousy and enmity with the victim. Many youngsters are using dating sites for exchanging personal photographs and details, which in return could lead to embarrassing situations in future.

During an investigation, by ‘The Times’, a British national newspaper, it came to light that many prostitutes and sex agencies are using social networking tools to lure new customers. Students are vulnerable to fall into their trap and can easily become the victim of sexual abuse and harassment. Such incidents can leave the victim emotionally traumatic for years.

Protecting Children from Wrongful Cyber Activities

Interference of parents in the virtual world of the teens can prevent them from falling into the wrong cyber activities. An open discussion on the safety and security concerns of the SNSs could prove helpful. Social networking in one or the other way has brought a gap between children and their parents. Spending quality time with family could help in bridging the growing digital gap between children and parents.