Social media refers to web-based, as well as, mobile phone technologies/ applications used to facilitate interactive communication between communities and individuals. Advancements in information and communication technologies have significantly improved access to internet and mobile phones in the last decade. Studies on internet access reveal that nearly 94% of adolescents and young adults use the internet for communication (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). This has led to the emergence of social media networks such as Facebook which are increasingly being used as communication tools in business, education and social life. This paper focuses on the use of social media and mobile phones in education. In particular, the positive impacts of social media and mobile phones on the education and health of young people will be discussed. Additionally, the risks associated with the use of social media and mobile phones will be discussed.
Benefits of Social Media and Mobile Phones in Education
The use of social media and mobile phones can promote learning among students in the following ways. First, social media enhance learning by facilitating real time sharing of information between the teachers and their students (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). Teachers can form learning communities that enable their students to access academic material or information. Additionally, social media and mobile phones can enhance school-wide communications, thereby improving coordination in learning institutions (House & Churchill 2008, pp. 295-307). For instance, text messages can be used to remind students to wake up early for their classes. Second, social media provides the engagement that students need to achieve better learning outcomes. Since most students spend most of their leisure time on social media, better learning outcomes can be achieved through social education. In this case, assignments can be posted on social media networks so that students can complete them at home. For instance, blogging can be used to improve student’s writing and reading skills.
Third, social media promotes collaboration rather than cliques among students and their teachers (Simon 2012, pp. 3-5). Using social media as a teaching tool enables students to work in teams and to critique or comment on their colleagues’ assignments. Additionally, it enables students to obtain instant help from their teachers and fellow students. Online discussions enable students to engage in critical thinking and to develop self-control by acknowledging other people’s opinions.
Fourth, social media plays an important role in improving students’ self-esteem. Social media enables students to strengthen relationships among themselves and their teachers. Similarly, mobile phone communications enable students to maintain strong relationships (Rettberg 2009, pp. 451-465). This promotes peer acceptance and cohesion among students. Empirical studies have showed that adolescents use social media to create their identity and to improve their self-confidence. Students are likely to perform better in academics if they have high self-esteem and confidence. Finally, the use of social media and mobile phones improves access to quality education. This is because social media and mobile phone technologies are readily available and are inexpensive. These technologies also enable students to acquire skills at their own pace (Zakaria, Watson & Edwards 2010, pp. 17-29). For instance, slow learners can follow lessons on social media networks during their free time. Additionally, mobile phones and social media have become an integral part of business. Thus, learning how to use them in school enhances the student’s employability, life skills, as well as, work practices.
Social media and mobile phones can be used to improve the health of young people through behavior change programs. Such programs require effective communication systems that can reach the targeted audience at the least cost. Social media and mobile phones can be used to promote disease control. They can be used by young people to access health education materials (Lefebvre 2009, pp. 490-493). Such materials include health alerts, medical news videos and healthy living tips. Health care providers can also use social media and SMS services to convey the information about disease control and how to access existing health services. For instance, an online symptom checker can be used by individuals to assess the severity of their health condition. Similarly online first-aid guides can be used to provide detailed tips on treatment, as well as, response to medical emergencies.
Lack of confidentiality or uncontrolled access to personal health information is one of the major barriers to disease control. For instance, a person suffering from a sexually transmitted disease may fail to disclose his health condition for fear of being stigmatized. In order to ensure confidentiality, mobile phones can be used to obtain medical advice from health care providers. Recent studies have revealed that mobile phones are culturally acceptable and feasible means of providing “sexual health information and service referrals to at-risk youth” (Lefebvre 2009, pp. 490-493). Finally, mobile phones and social media facilitate immediate access to emergency medical response. For instance, a student involved in an accident within a school can easily call for help through his or her mobile phone. Additionally, mobile phones with GPS capabilities can be used to locate the nearest health center during a distress situation.
Risks Associated with Mobile Phones and Social Media
Even though social media and mobile phones have positive impacts on the education and health of young people, they are also associated with several risks. To begin with, the use of social media or access to the internet using a mobile phone can lead to cyber bullying (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). Cyber bullying involves using electronic media to harass an individual. The common forms of cyber bullying include personal attacks, threatening text messages, as well as, spreading vicious rumors about an individual. Cyber bullying is more common than traditional bullying since the bully is always able to conceal his identity. Additionally, cyber bullying can take place at any time (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). Hence, the victims always live in fear of receiving threats or irritating message whenever they use their mobile phones or social networks. Cyber bullying is an impediment to learning since it impacts negatively on the psychological and emotional well being of the victims. Emotionally disturbed students can hardly concentrate on their studies. Thus, such students often record poor academic performance.
Social media and mobile phones are also likely to promote online risk-taking behaviors among young people. Risk taking behaviors such as violence, substance abuse and unprotected sex are the main causes of deaths among adolescents. Additionally, such risk taking behaviors are the main causes of poor academic performance among high school students. A study on MySpace profiles revealed that majority of users between the age of 14 and 17 years were familiar with adult-oriented behaviors (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). Such behaviors included the use of marijuana, swear words and access to pornography. Uncontrolled access to inappropriate content on the internet by young people promotes risk taking behaviors. Such behaviors lead to poor health and low educational achievements.
Sexual predators often use social media and mobile phones to lure minors into sexual activities (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). This promotes the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies among minors. Both sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies interfere with the affected student’s ability to learn. In the classroom environment, mobile phones are often used by students to cheat in exams. In some cases, students concentrate on their mobile phones instead of listening to their teachers. Hence, the students learn very little, and this translates into poor performance in exams.
Social media and mobile phones facilitate communication and interaction between individuals. The benefits of using these technologies in education include effective and efficient sharing of information, enhancing the students’ self-esteem, as well as, effective coordination of the learning process. Similarly, social media and mobile phones enable young people to access health education materials which promote behavior change (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010, pp. 77-85). However, the use of social media and mobile phones can also promote cyber bullying, risk taking behaviors and cheating in exams. In order to prevent these negative effects, the use of social media and mobile phones among young people should be regulated. For instance, minors should not be allowed to access inappropriate content in the internet. Thus, the use of social media and mobile phones among students should only be regulated instead of being banned.
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