March 22, 2023

Cayman Islands National Youth Forum canvasses youth insights on social media

Approximately 130 people attended the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly (CIYA) National Youth Forum on “Social Media & Youth”, on Friday, 30 November 2018.

Organised through the Ministry of Education, Sports, Youth, Culture and Lands’ Youth Services Unit, it was the CIYA’s third forum since 2008.

Participants including Ministry staff, youth group members, church youth leaders, parents and the public attended the meeting at Mary Miller Hall.

The forum invited the exchange of facts and opinions on social media’s impact on relationships. The CIYA canvassed more than 100 youth to select the forum’s discussion topic.

Participants discussed how digital technology affects youth socialisation. Attendees gained expert opinion from medical psychologists and a digital forensic specialist who shared recent changes in the laws protecting individuals against invasions of privacy and illicit material.

“The Social Media & Youth” forum was well-attended on a rainy Friday evening, which in itself is a strong indication of how timely a discussion on the forum’s subject matter is,” said Minister for Youth, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

“The influence of social media and its ascendancy as the communication medium of choice among teens is a relatively recent phenomena. And, while we all appreciate that the digital era is a source of many advancements, we need to balance its rewards with a vigilance and awareness of the risks and challenges it brings for safeguarding our children,” she added.

In her opening remarks, Director of the Youth Services Unit Katherine Whittaker welcomed the live forum as a chance for youth to openly share their opinions amongst themselves and with adults.

Ms Whittaker outlined access to and use of social media, using figures from the Pew Research Centre’s (PRC) 2015 and 2018 surveys. “The survey results for this year show that 95 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 years in America own or have access to a smartphone; in 2015 that figure was 73 percent,” she advised.

“Social media platforms of choice for young people ages 13 to 17 in 2018 are YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. In the 2018 survey Facebook is now in 4th place. Also, in 2018 while 31 percent say social media has mostly a positive effect, 24 percent say it’s mostly a negative effect, but the largest share (45 percent) responded that social media had neither a positive nor negative effect on their lives,” she added.

The Director said that although that there were no comparative figures on perceived impact in 2015, results for “near constant” usage had more than doubled from 24 percent in 2015 to 45 percent this year.

CIYA President Brianna Bodden gave a Powerpoint presentation outlining the Assembly’s findings on social media and youth socialisation. Following research, the CIYA presentation concluded that although it is the main way teens form romantic attachments and sustain friendships there are significant disadvantages in using social media.

The downsides of dating and friendships sustained by digital media were said to be the impact on teens and their families in terms of mental health, physical – and societal harm. Cyber bullying, stalking, anxiety and depression – leading in some cases to self-harm   suicidal ideation and negative body image – were mentioned.

The CIYA President introduced panelists: Psychologists Dr. Colleen Brown and Dr.  Alexandra Bodden from OnCourse Cayman; Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Digital Forensics Examiner Mr. Anhill Carsana; CIYA Vice President Theola Williams; CIYA member Martin Diaz-Pascual and members of the Cayman Islands CARICOM Youth Ambassador team: Shantelle Young and Tayvis Walters.

Through a series of questions, panelists were invited to give their opinions on how social media can affect relationships using anecdotal evidence and empirical observations.

All users of social media themselves, panelists at the same time urged teens to be careful to not over-use it. One reason cited, by Dr. Bodden, was that it is hard to read social cues via text or even on Whatsapp.

Panelists also explained how over-use can lead to negative self-image and anxiety caused by a range of factors. These include appreciating lack of awareness that most images and posts portray an idealised version of reality, but also a situation where teens “live for likes” as a source of validation.

Protecting privacy and exercising extreme caution when choosing images to post were mentioned repeatedly as rules teens should follow. The issues of the re-sharing and the harm caused when others manipulate words or graphics was also highlighted.

A live poll of attendees was conducted following the panel session. Its findings reflected the PRC’s and CIYA results and research findings. Teens shared their views and experiences of forming and maintaining relationships via social media during the open mic session. Several cited situations where their experiences on social media had caused issues. Overall though the audience’s mood suggested that problems regarding the downsides of social media could be overcome with greater awareness and self-control.

Returning to the last part of the presentation,  CIYA students shared with audience members  their reccomendations that increased cyber-safety awareness should be promoted in schools using:

  • interactive school competitions,
  • including self-esteem and online relationships lessons on schools’ life skills curriculum, and
  • implementing stricter laws to protect youth online.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind