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Safety Net: What to Allow and What to Watch Out for on Social Networks

Things that are important to know on about the dangers of an the online cyber world and social media

In recent years, we are surrounded with social networks, where we have hundreds and even thousands of friends, only a small part of whom we really know. By quickly clicking on a link and several taps on a keyboard, we manage to connect with people all around the world. The number of "WhatsApp" groups that we are members of is increasing day by day as well as the number of messages we receive from friends on Facebook, Instagram and the like.

On the one hand, social networks may greatly contribute to our health. A lot of information can be obtained from them regarding health issues, such as: diet related resources, physical activities, medical knowledge and volunteering in different organizations. Furthermore, they can also be used to ask for help from friends or adults, who are significant to us, and to share with them what is going on with us.

On the other hand, social networks have the potential to cause harm:

The harm may be physical - a careless move performed in order to publish a post or a “cool” video that we have seen and want to imitate, like the people who took photos in order to upload them to the Internet and fell to their deaths, or children who were severely injured due to a dangerous challenge shared on “TikTok” application. The harm may be caused over time, because social media makes use of habits that can damage the functioning of the body, and our mental well-being as well.

Not getting enough sleep and impaired quality of sleep

  1. Bad health may may be the result of not getting enough sleep, which might be in two main ways:
    Lack of sleeping hours: when we go to sleep late when not paying attention to the amount of time we spend on various media. More about recommended sleeping hours.
  1. Bad sleep: since light, emitted from displays impairs secretion of melatonin - a sleep hormone. Lack of sleeping hours affects the ability to concentrate and study and may result in lower grades; it impairs working, driving and many other aspects of life. Insufficient sleep leads to slower and reduced effectivity of metabolic processes in the body that can cause increased appetite, leading to obesity.

Self-esteem, stress, and depression

The damage may be mental, starting with media addiction: many studies indicate that there are many teenagers, who often (sometimes every few minutes) check how many “likes” and comments their published posts have. Even after checking the number of “likes”, many teenagers report that they are disappointed by the number they gained, and this causes them to feel frustrated, disappointed, insecure, offended and angry.

Frequently checking social media to see whether a new message or “likes” were received is fear of missing out, the will to “be there” at the right time with the right people.

This emotion is amplified by a tendency of social network users to exclusively share positive experiences, photos of smiles and happy situations, achievements and successes. This unrelenting display of only good experiences may cause teenagers and adults to feel sad and inadequate; a sense as if their lives are not fulfilling and not as good as the lives of others.

Another way that social networks may cause mental injury is sharing without permission another person’s videos that are of sexual nature. Such cases lead to the legislation of the “Video Law” (file in Hebrew) that forbids sharing of contents that constitutes sexual harassment or abuse of another person.

Shaming and bullying phenomena cause severe mental injuries to the injured person. According to the Ministry of Internal Security's 2018 Youth Survey, one child out of every three in Israel is exposed to social network abuse, and one of every four affected by social network abuse does not report it.

So what can be done to reduce the damage?

  1. Set certain times during the day when not occupied with internet or social media. Those times may be meal times, spending time with family members and upon going out with your real friends. Another recommended time is homework time.
  2. If you know of shaming or other social network abuse - it is important to involve an adult, who is meaningful for you, already at the earliest stages, and you may call the National Youth and Child Internet Safety Hotline at 105.
  3. Enter your mobile device settings and “silence” social network notifications. You would be amazed how much it aids in reducing the frequency with which you check messages and likes.
  4. Choose a corner at home with the whole family to be a screen-free zone: a quiet place at home, where you can spend quality time together without disturbances and distractions of social networks.
  5. Last tip: use your common sense – think before checking your social network account. One moment of thought before checking your notifications prevents a lot of damage. Compare it to crossing the road - it is similar to stopping and looking sideways before crossing.

Further reading:

Youth Survey, Ministry of Public Security 2018 (in Hebrew)