It can be said that social media promotes envy and the need to be envied. This can cause depression and anxiety in teenagers and adults. A majority of what is posted on social media is not real. Those posts that make other people’s lives seem perfect and interesting, are called highlight reels. These are carefully edited (and sometimes faked!) to give the appearance of a life that is more interesting than it actually is. The world of social media has become a popularity contest of who can get the most “likes” and followers.
Everything that you post online has personal, professional, and legal consequences. Many colleges and companies often use social media to screen applicants. This means that any offers of admission or employment, can be based on what they find on your online profile. It also means that any offers you do receive, can be withdrawn! In fact, many people have been expelled from college or fired from their jobs, because of what was on their online profiles. Everything that is posted online or shared by text message has the potential to be admitted into court as evidence!
Social media and text messages can be used to destroy the lives of other people. In fact, two disturbing trends are sexting and cyberbullying. Sexting is sending sexually explicit language and/or nude or semi-nude pictures by text message. The person who receives the photos or messages can send them to others, who can then post them on a website. That same person can also pressure the sender into doing something they don’t want to, by threatening to share the information if the sender does not obey. This is called sextortion and is illegal. Victims of cyberbullying and sexting are at a high risk of suicide. In 2014, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for 10-34 year olds.
Another concern is cyberstalking and online predators. Cyberstalking is the stalking or harassment of another person by use of the internet or text messages. Online predators pretend to be someone that they are not – usually a teenager – and befriend under aged social media users. Such users may then be manipulated into providing their personal information and meeting the predator in an undisclosed location. The previously aired NBC television series “To Catch a Predator”, examined this danger.
Parents are not immune to the dangers of social media either. Many parents can potentially compromise the safety of their children when they post photos and videos of them. Although parents attempt to regulate their children’s online activity, they are unaware that their own actions could potentially put them at risk. For example, posting a baby’s photo that includes the name and birthdate is enough for identity theft to occur. Some social media sites automatically include the location at which photos and videos are taken, so it is important to check the privacy settings. These settings also enable you to prevent your information from being viewed by friends of friends and other random strangers.
Anyone with access to the internet or a cell phone can have access to your personal life. So, it is very important that you do not post anything that not only could result in negative consequences, but also anything that you wouldn’t want to share with your parents, pastor, or teacher.
If you are a victim of sexting, cyberbullying, or cyberstalking, tell an adult you can trust! It is important that you also take screenshots, because this may be the only proof you may have if criminal charges can be filed.
Centers for Disease Control: 10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group – United States, 2014
To Catch a Predator – YouTube