London: More than half of UK parents think popular social media sites such as Facebook hamper their children’s moral development, according to a new survey.
The ‘parent poll’ commissioned by researchers at the University of Birmingham found that only 15 per cent of parents thought that popular social media sites, such as Facebook, provided a positive influence on a young person’s character.
About 40 per cent of parents said they were ‘concerned’ or ’extremely concerned’ about the negative and potentially harmful impact of social media.
The UK-wide poll, questioned over 1,700 parents of children aged 11 to 17. Of those parents questioned, 93 per cent 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.
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.
“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,” Blaire Morgan from the University of Birmingham.
Respondents named a number of character strengths that they believed were lacking on social media.
About 24 per cent said forgiveness and self-control was least present, followed by honesty (21 per cent), fairness (20 per cent) and humility (18 per cent).
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.
About 60 per cent of theparents named anger and hostility as the most negative trait displayed, followed by arrogance (51 per cent); ignorance (43 per cent); bad judgement (41 per cent); and hatred (36 per cent).
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 per cent of respondents.
“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,” said Morgan.
The positive impact of social media was given less attention, but the results of the poll suggest some cause for optimism.
About 72 per cent of respondents said they saw content with a positive moral message at least once a day, suggesting social media is not purely an environment for vice.
The top five character strengths promoted at least once a month on social media sites were identified as; humour (52 per cent); appreciation of beauty (51 per cent); creativity (44 per cent); love (39 per cent); and courage (39 per cent).