Malta has the second highest rate of digital engagement in the European Union, with 96 percent of those aged between 16 and 24 active on social media. Online abuse disrupts school activities and causes loss of sleep, changes in appetite and worrisome interpersonal issues.
Copyright 2019 by The Malta Independent
By Michael Bugeja
Earlier this year The Malta Independent ran an insightful article about mental health literacy, warning parents about over-protecting children and hindering their ability to cope with everyday stress. Experts discussed how to distinguish genuine mental disorders from simple life challenges but they did not, however, address a major, stress-inducing teenage activity: social media.
Why is this a concern? Two years ago, The Malta Independent reported that Malta had the second highest rate of digital engagement in the European Union, with 96 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 active on social media. The latest statistics show that some 66.41 per cent of Maltese are active on Facebook alone, with others spending time on Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms.
Distracted by their own online activities, parents are often oblivious of the abuse that their children experience on social media.
I have been researching these harmful effects for almost two decades in my work as a distinguished professor at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. I have writtentwo books on the subject: Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age (2005) and Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine (2018), both published by the Oxford University Press.
Last year the Pew Research Centre released a study showing that name-calling and rumour-spreading has increased dramatically among teenagers, with “the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of social media” transforming “where, when and how bullying takes place.”
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