Is Social Media Detrimental to Your Child's Moral Development? Maybe Not So Much

It certainly comes as no surprise but social media sites interfere with children's moral development.

According to a new study, a "parent poll" carried out in the UK found that only 15% of parents thought that popular social media sites, such as Facebook, provided a positive influence on a young person’s character, while 40% of parents said they were "concerned" or "extremely concerned" about the negative and potentially harmful impact of social media.

Even though it was carried out in the UK, it holds true for this country, as well.  The UK-wide poll questioned over 1,700 parents of children aged 11 to 17. Of those parents questioned, 93% said they were regular social media users, reports.

Researchers carried out this poll to gauge parents’ perceptions around the influence of social media on children’s character.

The survey, which is the first of its type in the UK, provides a unique insight into the moral values that are portrayed on social media, the web site notes. "It points to widespread parental anxieties about the influence of online networks on children as young as 11, who are often using the sites despite age limits," it reports.

But there were also some surprising findings.  "There was a low level of agreement that social media can enhance or support a young person’s character or moral development," says Blaire Morgan at the University of Birmingham and a study author.

Respondents named a number of character strengths that they believed were lacking on social media; 24% said forgiveness and self-control was least present, followed by honesty (21%), fairness (20%) and humility (18%).

However, a bleaker picture emerged when respondents were questioned about the negative character traits, or vices, they saw on social media at least once a month.

More than half the parents named anger and hostility as the most negative trait displayed, followed by arrogance (51%); ignorance (43%); bad judgment (41%); and hatred (36%).

Vanity, commonly perceived to be a major negative character trait in the “selfie” generation, came further down at 9th place in the league table of social media vices, comprising 30% of respondents.

Over 70% of respondents said they saw content with a positive moral message at least once a day. This figure is higher than the percentage of respondents who said they regularly saw negative moral messages, suggesting social media is not purely an environment for vice.

The top five character strengths promoted at least once a month on social media sites were identified as: humor (52%); appreciation of beauty (51%); creativity (44%); love (39%); and courage (39%).


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