E-Safety in the Use of Social Networking Apps by Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults

Gila Cohen Zilka
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 14  •  2018  •  pp. 177-190
Aim/Purpose: Following the widespread use of social networking applications (SNAs) by children, adolescents, and young adults, this paper sought to examine the usage habits, sharing, and dangers involved from the perspective of the children, adolescents, and young adults. The research question was: What are the usage habits, sharing, drawbacks, and dangers of using SNAs from the perspective of children, adolescents, and young adults?

Background: Safety has become a major issue and relates to a range of activities including online privacy, cyberbullying, exposure to violent content, exposure to content that foments exclusion and hatred, contact with strangers online, and coarse language. The present study examined the use of social networking applications (SNAs) by children, adolescents, and young adults, from their point of view.

Methodology: This is a mixed-method study; 551participants from Israel completed questionnaires, and 110 respondents were also interviewed.

Contribution: The study sought to examine from their point of view (a) characteristics of SNA usage; (b) the e-safety of SNA; (c) gender differences between age groups; (d) habits of use; (e) hazards and solutions; and (f) sharing with parents and parental control.

Findings: Most respondents stated that cyberbullying (such as shaming) happens mainly between members of the group and it is not carried out by strangers. The study found that children’s awareness of the connection between failures of communication in the SNAs and quarrels and disputes was lower than that of adolescents and young adults. It was found that more children than adolescents and young adults believe that monitoring and external control can prevent the dangers inherent in SNAs, and that the awareness of personal responsibility increases with age. The SNAs have intensified the phenomenon of shaming, but the phenomenon is accurately documented in SNAs, unlike in face-to-face communication. Therefore, today more than ever, it is possible and necessary to deal with shaming, both in face-to-face and in SNA communication.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Efforts should be made to resolve the issue of shaming among members of the group and to explain the importance of preserving human dignity and privacy. The Internet in general and SNAs in particular are an integral part of children’s and adolescents’ life environment, so it can be said that the SNAs are part of the problem because they augment shaming. But they can also be part of the solution, because interactions are accurately documented, unlike in face-to-face communication, where it is more difficult to examine events, to remember exactly what has been said, to point out cause and effect, etc. Therefore, more than ever before, today it is possible and necessary to deal with shaming both in face-to-face and in the SNA communication, because from the point of view of youngsters, this is their natural environment, which includes smart phones, SNAs, etc.

Recommendations for Researchers: The study recommends incorporating in future studies individual case studies and allowing participants to express how they perceive complex e-Safety situa-tions in the use of social networking apps.

Impact on Society: Today more than ever, it is possible and necessary to deal with shaming, both in face-to-face and in SNA communication.

Future Research: The study was unable to find significant differences between age groups. Fur-ther research may shed light on the subject.
e-safety, social networking apps, WhatsApp, shaming, cyberbullying, privacy
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