Sunday, December 5

SOCIAL NETWORKS | Gambling your life for a like or a viral challenge?

SOCIAL NETWORKS |  Gambling your life for a like or a viral challenge?

SOCIAL NETWORKS | Gambling your life for a like or a viral challenge?

New technologies, social networks and viral challenges among teenagers. They are apparently just games but they induce risk situations that can cause very serious damage. Its protagonists seek triumph in platforms What Instagram or Tiktok without measuring the fatal consequences of their behavior. Would you eat a cactus, thorns and all, to be able to post the video on the net? Well, there are kids who do and you can imagine the outcome: they gain a handful of followers even at the risk of ending up in hospital. As it happened in Benidorm just a few weeks ago. All for a selfie. Is it really worth playing the goose up to that point?

The ‘challenges‘are actions that are proposed in the digital environment and that they invite to be carried out by users from all over the world. At first they were popularized as comic challenges and even solidarity. In the summer of 2014 a stream arriving from Boston (United States) traveled half the planet with the “Ice Bucket Challenge“. The test was quite simple and one could say harmless. It consisted of pouring a bucket of ice water over it. No more. Hundreds of thousands of people did it, including many famous people, and the goal was none other than raise awareness about the existence of a condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (THE A). Now there are other video chains that succeed on the Internet with dangerous practices that show that human stupidity has no limits.

The most dangerous viral challenges

The last one to go viral among the young people of the province has been the “Desk challenge”. It consists, nothing more and nothing less, than in hang from a hanger on a chair with a desk on top. How could it be otherwise, there are not a few who end up hitting the ground and some of them even require medical assistance. All this to try to stand out among their peers and achieve greater social acceptance, which translates into reach the highest possible number of visits and likes.

The benefits of social networks they are undoubted if used properly, but they can also become a problem when they generate dependency and serve to spread dangerous actions that, especially the youngest, tend to imitate.

We are looking for an explanation. Why are kids attracted to these kinds of challenges to spread them on the net? The psychologist Mireia Orgilés, who belongs to the Aitana research group of the UMH, dedicated to the study of psychological problems of children and adolescents, analyzes the phenomenon: “Adolescents tend to be impulsive since the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for reasoning and impulse control, develops slowly and does not it is consolidated until after adolescence. This implies that adolescents do not have the necessary critical reasoning skills to consider certain challenges dangerous and are carried away by their impulsiveness. Impulsiveness leads them to act without thinking about the consequences and in the damages that reproducing a behavior that is in fashion can cause them. The adolescent also needs to be socially accepted by the group and for this they usually imitate models that are not always suitable. Social networks provide a stimulating and changing environment that draws a lot of attention from adolescents and facilitates their acceptance by others, since the more extreme a behavior that appears on the networks, the more diffusion and more likes are achieved ”.

It seems that many of them seek integration or acceptance in their group of friends, online popularity is valued too much… Is that so?

Indeed for the adolescent it is very important to be accepted by the group of friends. Viral challenges give them the opportunity to stand out, even if it is at times risking their lives. Adolescents minimize risk and focus only on what a friend or someone who is a reference for them did and achieved many likes and followers. If a behavior, even dangerous, is fashionable, they follow it because it makes them more popular.

Young people with many followers in networks, could they have a distorted image of reality?

Social networks are a dangerous environment when the adolescent does not have critical vision. They present an image of life that is not real. The self-esteem of the adolescent who has many followers depends on the number of comments he receives and that can lead him to carry out dangerous or extreme behaviors, but which increase his popularity. If the followers downgrade or receive negative comments, you will accept any challenge to remain popular. At the same time, they become a role model for others and they reproduce the behaviors they see on social media even if it puts their lives at risk.

Do you think that social media accounts should be restricted to people of legal age?

Social networks have advantages if they are put to good use. The problem is that the content that teenagers watch is not “filtered” and many can be potentially dangerous for them. Restricting the age of use of social networks could be a solution, but there would always be ways to access them through fake profiles. I bet more on a more realistic option, which is to prepare children from an early age to make positive use of social networks.

How should educators and parents deal with this phenomenon? Is cutting access to technology the most appropriate solution?

Parents and educators can help their children from an early age to learn to reason and be critical of the behaviors of others. We can help them to see the negative and dangerous consequences of a certain behavior, compared to the advantages that it offers them. It is also important to highlight the importance of not collaborate in spreading dangerous viral challenges. We must insist that they should not share a video or an image that shows violent or dangerous behavior, and in this way we will prevent it from becoming viral. Being informed about social networks and being part of them also helps parents to know the interests of their children and with whom they relate. Years ago, before social media existed, it was easy for parents to “control” who their children spent their free time with, as they could limit or avoid companies they felt were not right for them. Today, with the internet, it is difficult to know who our children relate to if we are not users of social networks.

Finally, I want to emphasize that there are also positive viral challenges, which can be fun, with charitable purposes and that encourage the creativity of adolescents. Getting teens to see these positive challenges as challengingSmart and entertaining, he can slow down the chain of dangerous challenges that put their lives in danger.

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