Family values refers to the ‘ideas or beliefs that give great importance to the traditional family of a mother, a father, and children all living together’(1) which cover spiritual and religious values, family communications, educational values, family time and family traditions (2). It teaches children to distinguish between wrong or right and plays a huge role in a child’s upbringing. For the purpose of this report, I will focus on the effects of social media on family time and family communication. Family time is the time spent together as a family doing activities like sports or arts to even just sitting together for meals. Communication within a family unit is very important: it enables them to express concerns and feelings (16).
Social media according to the Oxford dictionary is defined as ‘websites and software programs used for social networking’ (19). For example Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. It is a platform which helps people voice out their opinions and beliefs while also allowing people to make friends and stay in touch with family and current friends from around the world. Social media networking is a form of globalisation as through it our world is more interconnected as it provides us a platform to communicate with anyone, anywhere and it’s faster and cheaper to share ideas and information. According to Datareportal as of 2020, almost 51% of the total global population (approximately 3.96 billion people) use social media (4).
Family communication and time can be neglected as our busy daily schedule leaves barely a few hours for families to communicate as they become occupied with their school, chores and work lives; the most common time spent together are meal times (26). Having meal times together benefits a child and parent because experiences and how the day has been spent can be expressed, making parents more aware of their child’s life and challenges. Sharing time with child information on how work life is provides the child a glimpse of the struggles a parent goes through for them. Which creates and closer bond between parent and child and more importantly it gives them a time to interact and build better relationships and communication.
A smart phone can easily become a source of distraction for both parents and children. Many people don’t realise how much time they spend on social media. According to a survey 61% of people surveyed agreed that the overuse of technology has had a negative impact on family life (11). It is very common for teens to have social media accounts. According to study by New York Behaviour Health 22% of teenagers log on to their favourite social media site more than 10 times a day and more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day(7). Approximately 75% of teenagers own cell phones, and 25% use them for social media, 54% for texting and 24% for instant messaging Children, ages 8-18, spend over 7.5 hours a day, 7 days a week using media sites outside of school(7). Research conducted by Market Watch showed that the average teen spends at least nine hours online (13). The average 12th grader spends approximately 2 hours texting, 2 hours on social media and 2 hours just browsing the internet (13). In fact 72% of parents say their teen is sometimes or often distracted by their phone while having real-life conversations(14) but of course communication is a two way system whilst parents claim that their child doesn’t pay attention to them, so do the 51% of teens who say the same about their parents(14). According to Understood Org, 56% of US residents find others use of electronics during family mealtimes annoying (11) . Better quality family time also strengthens bonds leading to happier memories of each other. The mere presence of a parent means nothing if the parent is occupied with social media uploading pictures on Facebook or Instagram so much so that they aren’t actually focusing on their child.
Parents may even post child’s achievements on social media to compete against other families which makes time spent together seem scripted and all an act for social media. A not high achieving child would feel worthless as they would be under the stress of competing and can result in friction between the two children. Emotional neglect of a child is believed to negatively affect the emotional, social and cognitive development (12).
According to a study by National Library of Medicine teens are very vulnerable to socials standards and many tend to develop insecurities from peer pressure and social media (5). It is common for a teen to post their best days and best looks on social media. Some even hop into the bandwagon of trends just to seem accepted and cool if not they feel inferior and feel the need to seem cool or else they wouldn’t be socially accepted for example many teens pick up smoking and drinking alcohol from peer pressure. This leads them to spending less time with their families and instead more time online trying to keep up with trends. This can lead to mental illnesses which further leads to a neglect on family life and also social media addiction.
According to an article by Healthy Option being distracted with social media and notifications can lead to a social media addiction which can causes increase in fatigue, stress, peer pressure and can lead to obesity and other health issues(21). According to a study by Harvard University this is because the brain releases dopamine which makes you feel happy every time a notification is received therefore the brain develops a desire for more social media interaction (22). Therefore people with social media addiction tend to spend more time on social media then with their family and friends, this leads to a lack of social skills. Social media communication is not the same as real life conversing you would need to know how to read body languages, tone of voice and other aspects like eye contact and hand movement absence of face to face conversations one tends to lose skills and become reserved and become socially awkward (21).
On the other hand the advantage of social media is that it helps strengthen family communication. These days distance is not an issue and digital technology helps us stay connected with our family from all around the world. Through social media platforms roughly two thirds (67%) of social media users say that staying in touch with current friends and family members is the major reason they use social media. About half of the group say they use these sites to reconnect with old friends (3). Those who study overseas have to rely on social media to maintain communication with their family. Family members who live abroad now have access to video on video conference apps like Facetime and Skype and picture sharing through Instagram or Facebook. Helping them get the real life feeling of being together. Video calling also helps communication as one can easily call an overseas family member during celebrations or in times of need. An example of this would be during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, many used social media and video conferences to stay in touch with their families overseas. In this people were able to screen their wedding allowing family members around the globe to witness happy moments despite facing a pandemic.
Social media is a powerful asset for gender equality. Women around the globe are now able to work, get equal excess to education and have a platform to raise their voice on (20). Despite this there are women who receive backlash for the content they posting online. An example of this would be the murder of Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media celebrity who was murdered in 2016 by her brother who believed her social media posts brought dishonour to the family name. These types of murders are called honoured killings and are common in Pakistan, in fact vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has provided statistics that 1,500 killings occurred between 2016 and 2018(23). However majority people did not see this as a crime as they believed she was a disgrace and that her murder was justified and in fact a powerful lesson for women (24). However her murder has enhanced laws on honour killing and caused a shift for women (25).
According to a reliable resource, Malaysia pulls in 23.4 million social media users (6). Malaysian culture is a mix of people from India, Malay and Chinese culture. Overall Malaysian culture is based on the religious and traditional believes of the three main ethnic groups. Islam is the official religion, followed by three fifth populations is Muslim therefore the laws follow the Shariah law too (9). An example would be child marriage being allowed in Malaysia, as long as the female is of 16 years old and the male is of 18 years old as stated in the Islamic family law. According to newspaper article by New Strait Times, as of 2019, 5823 Muslim child marriages registered in Malaysia, with Sarawak having the highest number at 974, followed by Sabah with 877, and Kelantan with 848 (10). It may seem wrong to people of other countries therefore through them sharing their opinion on social media many Malaysians have started to question the cultural values by comparing or viewing in a different cultural perspective against our national belief system. Some cultures and practises that doesn’t make sense or are unaccepted to other social groups but because we have been influenced to believing them therefore we tend to not question it however with the rise in use of social media we are then exposed to the ideas and beliefs of others and are able to make judgement based on other perspectives too. In a recent survey conducted with hundreds of Form 4 (16 to 17 years old) students in 10 schools in Taiping and Kuala Lumpur, most of the male and female respondents disagreed that it was acceptable for girls to be married before the age of 18. This shows that the respondents reject child marriages (10). Therefore it can be concluded that social media has managed to bring up issues in this law and it is now being revised
A common way to prevent social media from having a negative effect on family is firstly to limit screen time. It is common for a child to pick up from their parents behaviour and habits so a child may have picked up being addicted to social media from observing their parents (15) so if their parents could set an example and use their devices less the child would also learn to limit usage. This helps increase time spent together and reduces the risk of social media addiction. However if a person were diagnosed with social media addiction they can get clinical help and therapy. Providing proper education on the effects of social media and negative impacts of social media addiction can also help make parent and child realise how bad social media is for them and they can learn the importance of family values.
In conclusion, despite social media aiding us in communication, sharing of ideas and bring a sense of togetherness in times where we can’t be together the harmful effects certainly out weight the benefits. We may not realise that it is slowly tearing our families apart despite promising better connections. I believe that social media does have negative impact onto family values and in order to maintain the values we have, we must restrain our social media usage. Personally my perspective on the topic wasn’t different before researching for the report however after conducting research I am now further understands the consequences and am able to apply what I have learnt into my daily life