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Does Online Social Networking Hinder The Development Of Teenagers?

1209 words - 5 pages

The 21st century has seen the internet transformed into a tool that has made communication easier and more accessible. This transformation came about side by side with ideas of online social networks that would enable the interaction of citizens of different countries. Teenagers, being the main players of the online generation, have been caught up in the mix of online social networks as they have grown into a period whereby technology has revolutionized the way people go about their daily activities. However, due to the excessive amount of time spent on these networks and the online freedom that teenagers have, granted from social networking sites, they are left prone to negative effects on their development. For the purposes of this research, online social network use shall refer primarily to the use of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Hi5 due to their widespread access. If not monitored, online social networking is detrimental to teenager’s development as it encourages the exaggeration of their online personalities, distances them from the world of social interaction and diverts their attention from valid and significant news sources.
Firstly, the use of online social networks has fostered the exaggeration of online personalities by teenagers. The online social networks are user profiled meaning that the user manages what information is displayed about him/her and hence can manipulate his/her personality to cater desires of who one wants to become. Ego-centrism is the core of online social networks, enabling a person to focus on oneself and enter information which describes oneself, which in the process could lead to fake identities being created. James Marcia, a developmental psychologist from Canada, defines identity as something that is constructed rather than imposed leading credence to the idea that teenagers can create separate identities online (Cowie). Furthermore, from a 2010 nationwide survey of more than 1000 girls aged 14-17 conducted by Girl Scouts of America, girls with low self esteem admitted that their online image did not match their real image and were more likely to claim that they portrayed it as ‘sexy’ (Muscari). Therefore, online social networking use should be monitored primarily on the creation of user identities to prevent teenagers from developing exaggerated identities which do not match who they really are.
Furthermore, the exaggeration of personalities may lead to confusion between who a teenager really is and who he/she portrays to the online realm. The terms of service of these online social networks require a user to be age 13 or above (Facebook Terms of service). Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist who studied identity formation argues that “this age correlates with the stage of identity versus identity confusion [whereby] teenagers seek to find out who they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life” (Cowie). This confusion could be detrimental to the development of teenagers as it...

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