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Computer Usage and Social Media Linked to Anti-Social Behavior

Tweeting, Texting, and Smartphone use can lead to Violence, Cyberbullying, and Hedonistic Behavior

To me, the biggest problem facing our youth, the core values of our society, and the way we treat each other is the excessive use of social media. I believe the unrestrained use of social media by kids threatens the mental health of our society and, therefore, the values we hold so dear. The Internet promotes violence, rampant sexuality, immaturity, and hedonistic behavior. What it doesn’t promote is respect, fair treatment of others, and responsible behavior.

The one area that is not discussed enough is the effect of hedonism on the values of hard work, responsible behavior and accountability, and the pursuit of excellence – all values that have made America great. In philosophy, hedonism is the ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good. In psychology, it is the doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

The use of social media as the main form of communication and entertainment threatens ethical behavior in our society. Youngsters fail to see how their actions affect others; they are egocentric. They fail to see how the use of social media to express their feelings may influence the behavior of others who may be the target of their tweets or postings. Rather than go and speak to someone with whom they have a difference and hashing it out, some kids turn to social media to vent their frustrations and express their opinions that are aimed at tearing down the image of self-worth that all children and young adults should cultivate. This is why we have seen an increase in suicide among teens and, I believe, the increasingly violent behavior that may turn into tragedy for innocent kids caught in the gunfire on school campuses.

A policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics cites a 2010 report that found U.S. children aged 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours daily using some kind of entertainment media. Many kids now watch TV online and many send text messages from their bedrooms after "lights out," including sexually explicit images by cellphone or Internet, yet few parents set rules about media use, the policy says.

The policy notes that three-quarters of kids aged 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access. "Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school - it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping" the policy says.

Violence in schools, cyberbullying, and an individual’s success in school are all affected by the inappropriate use of social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children’s use of the Internet for entertainment, including Facebook, TV and movies, to two hours per day. Online homework is an exception.

The policy is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices. It expands the Academy's longstanding recommendations on banning televisions from children's and teens' bedrooms and limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily.

As an educator, I’m concerned that the excessive use of social media may be having a numbing effect on students’ feelings toward others in that sensitivity, caring, compassion, and empathy are being replaced by self-interested behavior. How can we expect future generations, especially those in business, to embrace socially responsible behavior if they grow up using devices that teach them otherwise; parents that do not monitor (or even care about) their kids use of social media; and authorities that do doing nothing to stem the rising tide of violence, cyberbullying and anti-social behavior.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on January 16, 2014

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