Introduction: The Development of Online Platforms: A Double-Edged Sword
The rapid development of social media and digital platforms has changed the way people connect, communicate, and share information. People can connect and access to the information all over the world. Although these platforms have brought numerous benefits, they bring a harsh issue as well, the proliferation of inappropriate online content. According to Ishtiak (2023), in addition to its numerous benefits and potential opportunities, it also has various mysterious negative impacts, one of which is the unfiltered flow of information and the control that individuals have over it. Inappropriate content encompasses a wide range of forms, including porn videos, violent images, and cyberbullying posts. All of this toxic content can negatively affect different groups of people, especially children as well as people who do not want to see these contents. According to Linked In (2023, September 1), the digital world provides users with the freedom to access and post everything, but this can result in negative content that could negatively influence people in the real world.
Negative Implications of Inappropriate Contents and Cyberbullying
Psychological Impact on Children:
Children’s brains and cognitive abilities are still in the phase of development, so they are easily harmed and misled by inappropriate content. According to Sloan (2022), adult content can damage children’s minds by causing sex addiction, motivation of violence, and intimacy disorders. The prevalence of videos and images with sexually explicit information, drug use, and violence would easily disorder children’s mental health, triggering their anxiety. What is more, inappropriate content would disrupt children’s eating and sleeping patterns and cause depression (Weaver et al., 2008). According to Anderson et al. (2010), children who regularly view violent content are desensitized to violence, making them less empathetic and have more aggressive behaviors in real life. The behavior not only includes hurting others but also themselves. According to the research, approximately 10% of adolescents suicide, and around 20% of them start to harm themselves after accessing violent content (Nguyen, 2021).
Cyberbullying and Consequences:
Cyberbullying is a pervasive issue that affects both children and adults, leading to various negative outcomes. Cyberbullying can be horrible because people have the freedom to post any comment online and sometimes they harm people unintentionally. The victims of cyberbullying, regardless of age and gender, experience a high tension of fear towards the internet and social media; they often are anxious about online posts and engagement in online activities, because they fear further harassment (Dilmaç, 2009). Furthermore, cyberbullying can lead to continuous feelings of hopelessness and depression, because adults and children who have experienced cyberbullying would isolate themselves from connecting with others. Then, the self-esteem of victims would be eroded by cyberbullying, leading to doubt in value and self-image. As a result, most of the victims tend to harm themselves and suicide to escape from the endless harassment. For example, Ryan Halligan was one of the victims of cyberbullying. When he was in primary school, he was always bullied by his so-called friend; one day, he shared his personal stories with his classmates, and his friend distorted the stories and announced that Ryan was homosexual. This information was posted on social media, even in the private message of Ryan’s friends and family, to make Ryan embarrassed. As a result, Ryan was unable to encounter the pressure of negative comments online and suicided at home.
What are the potential solutions to stop these tragedies?
Social media platforms can invest in advanced content filtering and moderation systems. They can develop artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and remove inappropriate content automatically. For example, YouTube has developed techniques that remove objectionable content automatically. It also applies to stricter algorithms to classify different contents accurately to prevent them from reaching the wrong audiences. Plus, the content authors should be allowed to label their works whether it is sensitive and the audience can choose whether to display sensitive content. For example, before YouTubers post the videos, the platforms always ask whether the content is sensitive, and would you like to display it to children or teenagers. Thus, the opportunities for inappropriate contents delivered to the wrong audiences could decrease.
The government can enact comprehensive online protection laws and require online platforms to be responsible for the contents. The government Establishes a legal duty for online platforms to protect users from being harmed by illegal and inappropriate content. Platforms must detect harmful contents and remove them; otherwise, the platforms will be punished and fined. Besides, not only the platforms but also every online user must be accountable for his harmful content or comments online because the negative outcomes would be generated by excessive freedom of speech online. Thus, individuals must not disseminate misleading information and defame others online, and the government should strengthen the regulation towards inappropriate content by enacting For instance, The United Kingdom has published an Online Safety Bill to regulate and enhance the requirement of moderating online content (Trengove et al., 2022). What is more, the government can require online platforms to implement age verification with official identification for the accessibility of adult content. Taking Instagram as an example, Instagram has facial analysis to ensure that the users are as old as they say they are, avoiding lying about their ages to access inappropriate content. Furthermore, since online platforms have a global nature, governments can collaborate internationally to establish standardized regulations for filtering and moderating inappropriate content and cyberbullying to protect users from being harmed. Therefore, government is the most powerful organization that can enhance the protection of the safety of online users.
It is also parents’ duty to educate their children and prevent them from being harmed by inappropriate content. First, parents can install parental control software to monitor and restrict their children’s online activities. The software allows parents to monitor and track their online activities, and then filter and block access to inappropriate websites and materials that would harm their children. Besides, parents can teach their children how to browse online safely by telling them not to click suspicious and unknown links, avoiding sharing any personal information online, and being cautious when interacting with strangers. Parents can also check contacts and messages on social media periodically to ensure they do not contact with suspicious strangers. Moreover, parents should establish open and honest communication with children about their online activities, encouraging them to share any upset and uncomfortable content, and help them release those negative emotions. Therefore, parents also play a significant role in protecting their children from being harmed.
In conclusion, the rapid growth of online platforms undoubtedly improved the way people connect, communicate, and access information. While these numerous advantages have brought critical issues, the proliferation of inappropriate online content and cyberbullying. The negative implications of these contents are profound, impacting various groups of people, especially children. The government and platforms need to cooperate to maintain a healthy online environment to protect the users. The inappropriate content and comments must be moderated and regulated to avoid being delivered to mislead the wrong audience. Online platforms are a double-edged sword, we must balance the benefits and drawbacks to maintain a safer online environment.
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