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State PCS

Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. ‘Social media is a double-edged sword in the present times.’ Discuss the need to regulate social media platforms to protect youth from its ill-effects. (250 Words)

    12 Jan, 2022 GS Paper 3 Internal Security

    Approach

    • Start with writing about the extent of social media in the present times.
    • Discuss the advantages of social media as well as the challenges associated with it.
    • Give a way forward.

    Answer

    International technology firms, for instance, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. constitute the digital infrastructure in almost all of the world. They are rarely regulated and are barely accountable, yet these corporations are playing a significant role in totally transforming the social world.

    Positive Impact of Social Media

    • Connection: Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give teens and young adults a sense of belonging and acceptance. This is particularly true for those who feel isolated or marginalized, such as LGBTQ youth.
      • Its allround effect was clear during the pandemic, when it connected people and loved ones living in isolation.
    • Positive Inspiration: Social networks can create peer motivation and inspire young people to develop new and healthy habits. Teens can also find positive role models online.
    • Identify Formation: Adolescent years are a time when youth are attempting to master their identities and finding their place in society. Social media provides a forum for teens to practice skills related to identity development.
      • A study has shown that young people who express their opinions on social media experience increased well-being.
    • Research: Mental health experts and researchers can use it to collect data that subsequently informs research. In addition, therapists and other professionals can network with each other within online communities, thereby expanding their knowledge and reach.
    • Giving Voice: Social media has allowed teens to develop a voice of advocacy. This can be a very positive influence when exposed to the right outlets.
    • Boost to creativity: Social media can help youth to enhance their confidence and creativity. It connects young people with a world of ideas and a world of possibilities. These platforms encourage students to exercise their creative skills in terms of engaging with their friends and their general audience.
    • Digital activism and social change: Social media can be a vehicle for making an impact in the community. It exposes them to essential issues not only in their community but all over the world as well. Greta Thunberg is one such example of youth activism.

    Challenges associated with Social Media and need to regularize it

    • Defamation and hate speech: The most often documented and observed crimes occurring on social networking sites include people making anonymous threats, bullying, harassing, and stalking others. Most of these types of crimes go unpunished and are therefore not treated very seriously.
    • Reinforcing Prejudices: Social media allows reaffirmation of prejudices and stereotypes they have about others. This is exacerbated by meeting like-minded people online, giving them a sense of community. For eg. Flat Earth Theory.
    • Cyberbullying or Trolling: It has posed serious problems and has even led to cases of teenage suicides. Moreover, even teens who commit acts of cyberbullying are more likely to report substance use, aggression, and delinquent behaviours.
    • Online Child Sex Abuse and Exploitation: A study in USA found that nearly half of all American children surveyed indicate that they have been made to feel uncomfortable, been bullied, or had an interaction of a sexual nature while online. In another study, it was found that over 50 percent of the victims of online sexual exploitation are between the ages of 12 and 15.
    • Use of social media to influence the youth and drive them toward radicalisation and religious fundamentalism. Such activities are needed to be identified and stopped.

    Way Forward

    • A dedicated Social Media Policy: A holistic policy to regulate social media by creating accountability of social media platforms to not target youth as consumers or future consumers. This will make the algorithms more attuned towards adults rather than youth.
    • Safeguards for inappropriate content: Platforms should be prohibited from recommending or amplifying certain content involving sexual, violent, or other adult material, including gambling or other dangerous, abusive, exploitative, or wholly commercial content.
    • Digital Literacy: It is important to not lose sight of the digital divide prevailing in India, esp. in the education sector. A policy decision in the name of protecting youth should not result in youth of underprivileged background to lose out on opportunities of the future.
    • Governance and Regulation: Government regulation in form of greater accountability of platforms for their content, Data Localization, third party digital audits, strong Data Protection Laws etc.

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