Social media is a widely controversial topic, especially regarding how our younger generations use it. In our last blog, we discussed how social media can cause our youth to be over-exposed to various topics that they need to be more mature to comprehend. You can read the full blog here. Please read the Irish Examiner article that prompted our previous blog here. You will find this information valuable and insightful. It can benefit you in your household as more and more parents face new conversations and challenges.
To understand if social media desensitisation is affecting our young people, it’s essential to have a brief understanding of the algorithms across social media platforms and how content can come to be on the screens of our children. While functionality and features vary across social media platforms, the fundamentals of the social media algorithms generally remain the same. The algorithms dictate the content that is shown on your ‘for you page’ (TikTok), ‘explore page’ (Instagram), and ‘news feed’ (Facebook). It is the user’s actions on each platform that help the algorithm learn what content it thinks you want to see. Naturally, the algorithm cannot read your mind, so it tries to learn about the content you watch and engage with to show you more similar content to keep the user on the platform longer. These algorithms consider a user's activity, interactions, and preferences to show them content likely to interest them.
Here is a list of some interactions;
Friend requests and accepts.
Likes, comments, shares.
The amount of time spent watching particular videos or viewing posts.
You will be shown content similar to what you share or use the same hashtags.
Why is all this relevant to desensitisation?
This is relevant because the type of content that your young person spends time engaging with will sway the kind of experience they have on social media. If students are not taught boundaries around the content they consume online, it can make or break their online experience. It can also begin to enhance their views on various debates, some we mentioned in our last blog were abortion, substance abuse and violence.
Social media is a strange place where any topic is up for discussion. Anyone can share their opinion from all corners of the globe. Important matters can become entertainment. While some of this is harmless, we can’t help but wonder if the younger generations are becoming desensitised or developing a lack of empathy.
We came across an article in the Irish Times about a 22-year-old man who was sentenced to 12 months after making an animated video about a young girl who was murdered. You can read the full article here. This article got us thinking about how our children and students are continually fed with content for entertainment and serious issues and that the lines are so blurred between the two. The young man in question in the article told the police he ‘thought it would be funny’.
While nothing will excuse this behaviour, it does leave a question mark over how a young person can be so detached from reality to think these actions are acceptable. It might be worth considering what ‘content world’ this young man was living in. He could have potentially fallen down one of the many different sides of social media, this one being finding fun in or glamorising violence. Let’s apply the algorithm to this case.
To mitigate the detachment from reality associated with social media use and content consumption parents and teachers should be mindful of their children's online habits, set boundaries, and prioritize real-life relationships and experiences. It's also crucial for parents, educators, and mental health professionals to educate children and adolescents about responsible and mindful social media use.
Internet safety seminars
Zeeko Education provides virtual and on-site Internet safety training to suit every school’s needs. Some of our packages also include parent seminars to ensure you are up to date with the most relevant information for your child, their class, and their age group. Our bookings are now open for the next academic year. Slots are filling up for November and December already. If you are a teacher looking to book a seminar, simply fill out the form here. If you are a parent and would like your child to participate in an Internet Safety Seminar, forward this to your child’s teacher.