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Social media sites obstruct children’s moral development, say parents

Friday 22 July 2016, by SIGNIS

Birmingham, July, 22nd, 2016 (University of Birmingham). Researches of the University of Birmingham have recently published a poll on the consequences of social media sites on children’s moral development. The ‘parent poll’ was carried out by a team at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. Researchers carried out this poll to gauge parents’ perceptions around the influence of social media on children’s character.

The UK-wide poll, questioned over 1,700 parents of children aged 11 to 17. Of those parents questioned, 93% said they were regular social media users. The survey, which is the first of its type in the UK, provides a unique insight into the moral values that are portrayed on social media.

According to the poll, “more than half of UK parents think popular social media sites hamper their children’s moral development”, and only 15% of parents thought that popular social media sites, such as Facebook, provided a positive influence on a young person’s character and 40% of parents said they were ‘concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the negative and potentially harmful impact of social media.

It points to widespread parental anxieties about the influence of online networks on children as young as 11, who are often using the sites despite age limits.

Dr Blaire Morgan at the University of Birmingham said: “There are some surprising findings in the poll, not the least the low level of agreement that social media can enhance or support a young person’s character or moral development.”

Respondents named a number of character strengths that they believed were lacking on social media. 24% said forgiveness and self-control was least present, followed by honesty (21%), fairness (20%) and humility (18%).

However, a bleaker picture emerged when respondents were questioned about the negative character traits, or vices, they saw on social media at least once a month. 60% of parents named anger and hostility as the most negative trait displayed, followed by arrogance (51%); ignorance (43%); bad judgment (41%); and hatred (36%). Vanity, commonly perceived to be a major negative character trait in the “selfie” generation, came further down at 9th place in the league table of social media vices, comprising of 30% of respondents.

Dr Blaire Morgan at the University of Birmingham added: “The ‘Parents and Media’ project seeks to offer a more constructive outlook on how social media might impact on a person’s character and moral values. ‘Social media is not going away, so by learning more about this relationship we should be able to maximise the benefits of its use and avoid the pitfalls.”µ

The positive impact of social media was given less attention, but the results of the poll suggest some cause for optimism. The top five character strengths promoted at least once a month on social media sites were identified as; humour (52%); appreciation of beauty (51%); creativity (44%); love (39%); and courage (39%).

Download the press release here.

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