More youths using social media to exact revenge - OCA Social Media Survey
Revenge, a need for friendship and ratings from friends topped findings from a survey carried out by the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) to assess young people's use of social media and the Internet.
Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison believes more needs to be done to educate the youth on how not to be young and reckless as they navigate cyberspace, noting that they sometimes put themselves in danger or may cause damage to others' - and even their own - reputation with some of their posts.
She told The Gleaner there is a need for more research locally, as most of the studies conducted assessing the ill effects of social media are "centred on a North American child".
The OCA survey was carried out in several schools in St Thomas, Portland, and Kingston and St Andrew from September to December last year.
"First, we found that girls were more likely to post things that were quite private and intimate about themselves. Also, there was this desire or need on the girls part, to see how many 'likes' they could get by posting pictures, so the more provocative the post or the pictures the more 'likes' they think they could get, and this is something that encourages them," the children's advocate told The Gleaner.
"Second, we found that they (young people) use the Internet as a means of exacting revenge. It's not just the girls now, but the boys as well. So if it's a case where they were good friends with a person or had some sort of intimate contact with someone and they feel they were disrespected in a particular way, they would use an Internet picture to shame the person, not realising that it also reflects badly on them," she continued.
"The other finding that came out forcefully is that they had a lot more friends on Facebook or in their virtual world than they did in real life. They also spoke freely to these virtual companions than they did in real life. So, in essence, they were actually living their life in the virtual world."
SOCIAL MEDIA HERE TO STAY
Harrison said while the survey sends a strong signal that the youth are eager and quick to adapt to technological advances, it is even more important for young people to learn to be responsible.
"Social media is here to stay, and for the most part, I don't believe the survey was troubling. However, there are some areas that we will have to address. When you find that a girl feels motivated to post a picture of herself in a compromising position because she thinks it will generate more 'likes' (a social media feature showing approval), for me, that is a red flag," she lamented.
"It suggests that there are deeper issues because it's not just about being popular, but it's being popular at any cost and that is cause for concern. This would also mean that there are self-esteem issues, and there could also be the need for attention."
Gordon Harrison continued, "The virtual vs the real is not so bad for me, unless it's a case where you are posting very intimate details that can make you expose to persons who don't mean you well. Persons tend to be very detailed in their posts and that could mean easy access to you. This finding, depending on how you look at it, could indicate some sort of social deficit as well."
She signalled that her office will be conducting similar surveys across the island and it is currently compiling a social media guide, which she hopes to launch in May, which is observed as Child Month.
"The guide will have three main parts. The first section will showcase all the different results and looking at the problem islandwide. The second part will include the gaps we saw, in addition to a manual, which will speak to how children can be responsible, both in terms of self-responsibility and having respect for others," Gordon Harrison said.
The third component, she told The Gleaner, will give tips to parents or adults who are involved in a child's life on how to keep aware of new technological developments and monitor children's use of social media.