Social media can be defined as the facilities and tools that reduce the world to a global village; websites and applications that enables users to create, share contents and participate in social networking. The social media platform provides opportunities for users to create online communities to share ideas, information, personal messages, etc. Some of the social media applications include Facebook, Instagram, You-tube, My Space, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, etc.
Youths are predominantly the users of the Internet for social interaction. These are the people who cannot imagine life without the Internet, the group seeking for ways to connect virtually to everyone in the world. With over half of the Nigerian population under 30 years of age, they are the ones more frequent on the Internet. We must harness the creativeness of the youth for the economic growth of Nigeria. Bearing in mind that the internet opens up a world of possibilities and opportunities to the youths, the consequences of ignorantly using social media by the youths should not be overlooked.
Whereas we are aware that the social media can have positive effects on the youths, we cannot discountenance the negative effects it also has on the youths. Several studies have been conducted on this and we outline below some of the positive and negative effects of social media on the youths.
The various social platforms provide the youths with:
- Great communication Tools to connect with loved ones and old friends irrespective of locations.
- Access to positive and free information being shared on Social Media.
- Opportunities to promote their businesses to a larger and wider audience.
- Social Capital.
- An avenue to contribute to emotional wellbeing of others by offering positive advices.
- Opportunities to launch businesses online
- Opportunities to market businesses online at little or no cost.
- Real time sharing of information for businesses through paid and unpaid advertising.
The negative effects of Social Media on youths cannot be overlooked and can be overwhelming. It can have harmful effects on the youths if not controlled. Some of these effects include:
- Lack of control of and over personal information: Youths post private information online without realising the associated risks.
- Cyber bullying
- Mental Health issues
- Lack of Morals
- Spread and ability to amplify Fake News
- Exposure to adult information
- Indirect encouragement of high rate of scam on social media
- Poor grades from the academic pursuits
- Long hours on Social Media platforms
- Peer pressure
- Addiction to social media
To ensure the safety of the youth online, it is strongly recommended that:
- We have adequate and effective Online child protection laws
- Parents as a matter of urgency should monitor the activities of their wards on the Social Media.
- Government should empower the youths so as to engage them in more meaningful and constructive activities.
- A cyber monitoring team should be set by schools to checkmate the effects of illegal activities of the Social Media.
- The youth should be educated on the proper use of the Internet and Social Media.
We must guide the youths and limit their exposure to the negativity of social media. We must ensure appropriate laws are in place to protect them against the exposure to Social Media. We must channel their activities on the social media to yield positive results.