Digital Media and our Youth

Today’s youth are surrounded by and immersed in a digital environment. It is not the fault of people to indulge in it but it is the trend of the time. There are two types of media, one is Traditional and the other, Digital. Traditional media, such as television (TV), radio, and periodicals are being replaced by new digital technologies that promote interactive and social engagement. They allow people instant access to entertainment, information, visual media, and social contracts. Traditional media were provided to a broader audience for passive viewing or reading. In contrast, the new digital media, which includes social and interactive media, is a form of media in which users can both consume and actively create content. Examples include applications (apps), multiplayer video games, YouTube videos, or video blogs (vlogs). For children and youth today, this evolving integration of passively viewed and interactive media is seamless and natural. The distinctions and boundaries between traditional/broadcast and interactive/social media have become blurred.

Digital media allows information sharing across a variety of media formats, including texting, photographs, videos, and audios. Today’s video games, for example, often represent a merging of both traditional and social media, as users can virtually “inhabit” impressively produced worlds and interact with other users in remote locations. Video game participants can even work collaboratively to co-create virtual worlds. Thus, digital media provides an engaging experience in which the media experiences of children and teenagers become highly personalized.

New digital and social media facilitate and promote social interactions as well as participation and engagement that involve both viewing and creating content. The effects of media use, however, are multi-factorial and depend on the type of media, the type of use, the amount and extent of use, and the characteristics of the individual using the media. Children today are growing up in an era of highly personalized media user experiences. Therefore, parents should develop personalized Family Media Use Plans for their families that suit each child’s age, health, temperament, and developmental stage. This will ensure that each child can practise and benefit from the essentials for healthy growth and development, such as a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene/routine, adequate physical activity, and positive social interactions.

Both negative and positive impacts of the media are quite a few. Due to the rapid spread of media to all parts of the world, the access to information is easy and fast. Owing to the web technology, almost everyone has access to information from anywhere in the world.

Owing to non-stop technological developments, media is not limited to big cities. It has reached the world’s remotest parts, thus spreading the accessibility of information.

Digital media has become such an essential part of life that living without it is becoming difficult. Digital media has become a best platform to voice our opinions in the world. Blogs are a great way for anyone to express personal ideas. Conversations in the form of comments on social media or blog posts and discussions, in online or news forums, can help in the exchange of vital information or viewpoints. Media often acts as the link between talented people and those in search for such. For example, job portals serve as a link between recruiters and seekers. It is a blessing for us if we use it wisely but it becomes a bane if we handle it unwisely.

While talking about negatives, it is often seen that young girls and boys imitate their favourite celebrities blindly. We have seen their lives and scandals in the news. Then what message is given to our boys and girls. This is the pitiable situation of our society. Social media is bringing negative feelings into young minds. An early exposure to violent films, books with adult content, and news portraying ugly social practices deeply impact young minds. The media in itself is so addictive that once glued to it, you tend to forget everything else. When you are not watching TV, you are surfing the Internet; when you are not on the web, you are reading newspapers; when you are not reading anything, you are listening to something. Thus, all the time, you are glued to some form of media. It is bombarding you with content, news, information, gossip, rumours. It exposes you to everything it has, some things necessary, some not; some things important, some not, some things you want to ignore, and some things you cannot. Media is all over, affecting every aspect of life.

Social media can be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. It has a powerful draw for many people that leads to them checking it all the time without even thinking about it. The negative effects of media on young boys or girls manifest in terms of their changing mental setup and the declining quality of their lifestyle. They should invest more time reading good books, studying, playing outdoors and exercising. The solution to avoiding the negative influence of media lies in limiting media exposure and choosing what to watch. News sources often bombard you with the same negative stories over and over again, in order to increase the impact. Sometimes, small incidents or events in the lives of celebrities and politicians are hyped, in order to make them more sensational. Refrain from watching such programs or news. Instead, watch good programs that carry healthy content, engage in positive activities, and encourage viewers to do the same.

Why do we need to stop using it? Or, why not? It depends on what we are grasping from digital media. Luke 11:34 says: Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. The use of light and dark to describe good and bad throughout Scriptures and in our culture is common. If you think good thoughts, you are in the light. If you think bad thoughts, you are in darkness. Now the decision is in our hands, as to what we choose. Social media is not bad but our intention is what matters. Are we pleasing God with our lives, or pleasing people? Finally, I want to say that if you find that social media has a negative impact on your life, stop using it. However, if you decide to stay, there are ways to waste less time on social media and maintain a healthy relationship with it.

Amar Nath is presently working as a School teacher in Himachal Pradesh. He writes blogs and takes online and offline teaching classes for needy students. He lives with his wife and two children and is based in Kangra.

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