Thursday 17 October 2019

'I get more updates on my aunt’s weekend on Facebook' - Transition year students explain why Snapchat is king for them

Transition year students Conn Lohan (left) and Lúcás O'Faoláin gives their views on social media, access, and screen time in the midst of exam preparation.
Transition year students Conn Lohan (left) and Lúcás O'Faoláin gives their views on social media, access, and screen time in the midst of exam preparation.
Transition year student Conn Lohan
Lúcás O'Faoláin

Lúcás O'Faoláin and Conn Lohan

Here, Lúcás O'Faoláin, followed by Conn Lohan, gives their view:

Social media is an extremely useful tool. People use it every day without even thinking about it, but should we? We use it to check the news, keep up to date with our families and keep ourselves entertained. The question we need to ask is where we can find the balance.

For some, social media can be an escape, others a necessity. In my opinion young people spend too much time on social media and tend to gravitate towards it as a necessity in their life, just like eating or sleeping. Last year while sitting my junior certificate exams I found it difficult to detach my phone from my studies. I found it much harder to keep my good grades up while constantly being immersed in social media. The only solution I could find was to turn my phone off completely. I can honestly say that social media affected my study in a negative way.

My most-used social media platforms are Snapchat and Instagram. I use Snapchat to talk to my friends every day as almost all of them use the platform. Snapchat can be used to send pictures, videos, chats and twenty four hour lasting updates on people’s “stories”. Instagram is also used by almost every teenager in my school but is more used to post pictures on a profile, rather than for twenty four hours or less like Snapchat. Instagram is more commonly used as well to keep up to date with your favourite celebrities, sports teams, news outlets and meme (joke) accounts.

Although Facebook own Instagram I feel like young people are finding less of a need for a Facebook account. I also have a Facebook account but find that I get more updates on my aunt’s weekend rather than the type of content I’m used to seeing of my friends on Instagram. As for using SMS it has almost become disadvantageous for me to use, except in an emergency. I think that if somebody wanted to talk to me that they would call or send me a message via social media for free, and if they needed me urgently that they would send me an SMS message or call me on my phone. It regularly happens where people send me a message and I do not reply because my phone hasn't received the message from the Wi-Fi network yet. 

I received my first phone aged thirteen - only to be used during emergencies. I was given my parent’s old Nokia 3310, more commonly know as a “Blokia” to my friends. When I finally obtained my first smartphone there was not much to do on it. I used WhatsApp to talk to my cousins and a few friends. Today children as young as ten are being given smartphones with full access to social media websites. There is undoubtedly an issue that has not been properly acknowledged.  

The problem of our generation is that we are in uncharted territory. There have not been conclusive studies into the long-term effect of social media and how it affects our study, work and life. The difference I have noticed between my childhood and that of children today is that children of today grow up with a screen in their hand. I have often seen new parents in restaurants put a phone in front of their children to keep them occupied.

In my opinion the problem is not with social media. The problem lies with how much time we spend on it. It might not be the easiest task for parents to do but I think that parents need to have more of an involvement in their children’s lives on social media. I think that there should be a limit to the amount of time spent on social media as I think people are beginning to depend upon it. I think that parents should limit their young children (under the ages of fourteen) to less than an hour and a half a day of social media time. My proposed limit would help children learn at a young age that the world does not revolve around social media. Social media is a practical appliance but it should not take precedence over what being a child is about – having fun!

There is no doubt that social media is changing the world, whether we like it or not, creating neologisms that have not been coined, jobs that have not been invented and changing our lives in ways we cannot comprehend. 

The question is what are we going to do about it?

Conn Lohan

In this day and age, parents are constantly concerned that mobile phones are a terrible distraction to their teenage children’s academic studies, self-esteem, self-confidence and social life. Can you blame them? I know I wouldn’t.

When adults of this generation were teenagers, followers on Instagram, friends on Facebook, or being added to the latest Snapchat group chat with all the popular kids was never on their minds. 

Therefore, I see it as very understandable when parents don’t want their children always glued to a mobile phone.  The truth is, the average teenager usually spends a few hours on their mobile phones on schooldays and considerably longer on weekends and during holidays. Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube would typically be getting a lot of action during this time, and Facebook, slightly less.

A very frequent question is whether or not it’s possible for students to achieve pleasing grades in school while having full access to their own mobile phones. Of course it’s possible, it’s just not easy. It requires discipline and the act of being organised. 

The issue with the majority of students is they’re sitting at their desk at home, doing their homework or studying, and their mobile phone is on the desk as well, right beside them, tempting them to look at it. That would tempt anybody, not only a teenager, so of course the student will give up on studying and go on the phone. 

If a student is preparing for exams, it’s vital that they’re disciplined and organised. At the start of every day, they should make a study plan for the day, including breaks when they can go on their mobile phone because nobody can study for a whole day. When they’re not on their break, the mobile phone should be left downstairs or out of sight. Like I said, none of this is easy, but if you begin to do it now as a student, you’ll feel like you made very constructive use of your time at the end of every day.   

Most teenagers do have a favourite social media, myself included. Mine would have to be Snapchat, with all its various features; direct message, public story, private story. In my view, the number of teenagers who reply with Facebook as their favourite social media is decreasing.

Not all, but some would have a least favourite social media as well. Mine is Facebook, it’s the social media I go on the least often. It’s fair to say that teenagers use SMS, but normally to text older relatives or parents, not each other, seeing as a massive chunk of parents today don’t possess accounts on social media. 

Another regular question is whether or not parents should be concerned about how much time their children spend online, or should they allow for the fact that teenagers are responsible enough to make their own decisions. If you ask me, parents do have the right to be concerned. Mobile phones weren’t around when our parents were growing up, so they don’t know any more about them than us teenagers. Realistically, they know significantly less about them. 

Therefore, parents are worried about what mobile phones can do to their children, but they don’t know what it feels like since they don’t have any experience of being a teenager and having a mobile phone. 

But parents, you guys are seeing the benefits of you and your teenage kids having a mobile phone. I’ll bet whenever your child is going out you ask them, “Do you have your phone?”, so you can easily contact them, but you never had that in your day.

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