The Problem and its Background
More than a decade ago, the world was a very different place. It is no question that it was fraught with its own obstacles and difficulties for children and families. During that time, it was hard for the young generation to imagine that 50 years later, their children will be able to communicate with all sorts of people from friends to strangers at all times of the day and night without them necessarily being aware.
While during this period, parents used to keep a check on the whereabouts of their kids, nowadays a teenager can travel through out the world even without leaving the bedroom.
Currently, many experts are arguing that social networking sites are impacting negatively on the social skills of today’s generation with many concluding that though technological advances have made many things possible (like most things available nowadays), if they go unchecked, these life tools are likely to turn out to be weapons of self destruction.
While social networks main goals are to allow people interact socially, these sites have also caused members to become like zombies. Most of them spend time socializing and this in return dents their personal social skills. That is the reason why most of the people in the current generation prefer communicating through cyberspaces since it is easier to say everything than a one on one form of communication where some people cannot even express themselves (Thackeray & Hunter, 2010).
Experts goes further and argues that aside from developing strong interaction skills, today’s generation has developed weaker interpersonal relationships with those they relate to: from teachers, friends to their own parents, a character which has been attributed to too much dependency on the internet.
Most of the times, today’s generation can only communicate with other people by chatting or placing comments on their friends wall. They have been doing this for a long time until it develops into a habit. This continues until a time comes when they can only use either the internet or computers to inform the other party what they want and through this, expression of emotions and feelings lost and this leads to loss of social skills on how people interact with others.
However, contrary to the views of many, Affonso (1999) indicates that social skills and social mores are dynamic indicating that even though our teenagers are constantly in their phones surfing through social sites such as Facebook and Twitter that does not mean that their social skills are not developing but he argues that they are developing in a different dimension and in different social skills than those their parents placed high value on or developed in.
Affonso goes further and indicates that while there are some positive aspects about social sites, there have also been suggestions that increased use of internet and social networks have negative influence on their social skills. He supports this by quoting a study done by Carnegie Mellon University which concluded that “Internet use leads to small but statistically significant increases in misery and loneliness and a decline in overall psychological well-being”, (Affonso, 1999: Par 3).
Other studies also show that most of today’s generation use internet more often and thus most of them tend to have fewer friends and spends very little time interacting with their family members and close friends thus most of the time they suffer from stress and feeling more lonely and depressed at times.
A new twist in relationship studies has also revealed that most of the break-ups among young couples have been attributed to the fact that one partner uses more of their time in social networks leading to the other party feeling lonely and alienated and as a result this leads to irreconcilable differences leading to break ups.
With most of the today’s generation using the internet more than their parents used to, especially through social sites, listening to music and meeting new people, there has been a concern among educators that most of the current generation will “lose the savvy and skills and patience to conduct social relations in the corporate real world and that the Internet will intensify the negative effect television has already had on our social skills”, (Affonso, 1999: Par 7).
However, increased use of the internet has also been said to groom the social skills of the current generation. When the children and the youth who makes the current generation interact online in productive and positive ways especially through the interactive platforms such as virtual magazines, it gives them an opportunity for them to express themselves and thus they can share their views with people of their age those who are of the same views and the contrary thereby widening of their understanding scope.
It is worth noting that increased use of the social environments helps in improving one’s social skills. The interactions young adults have in their facebook or twitter are more similar than they are different from the interactions which adults make on a one on one or face to face relationships.
Conducted studies show that youth who usually lack social skills and positive interactions in real life are also likely to misuse social networking sites in inhuman way or example by making threats thus there is no point of connecting poor social skills to increased uses of social networks.
Subjects for Study
The study will be conducted in the University of California Los Angeles and it will consider all aspects of the students including the age, gender and the year level in terms of social networking sites and their social interactions at home, with classmates, teachers and friends.
The study shall also entail investigating the interrelationship skills of the students towards their parents, teachers and also fellow friends as well as how social networking sites have influenced their social skills. The research will involve a sample of 300 students currently in the university and the study will also be purposive since only the everyday users of social networks will be considered.
For any survey, there are ethical implications which come to play especially if it is a social factor survey. In our case, the ethical implications which the survey might pose are those related to violation of the individual policy. If each of the youth in our sample consent to the survey, it will be very important to inform them about our study objectives and applications.
Since our survey might reflect the pattern of relationships among people, the target sample will most likely be revealing what the large population is doing. The questions as to who the youth communicates or interacts with for example during periods of stress and depression might interfere with their privacy. Questions of how long and how frequent they confide with those they care about and which channel they use.
Thus, even though the interviewee might not be aware, they can find themselves conveying some information about another party while the other party may not and this may cause violation of their rights to privacy (Carpenter, Bauer& Erdogan, 2008).
With the given technology advancements, while the interviewer might try to maintain the confidentiality of the information accessed with demographic issues it may be possible for one to guess the individuals depending on where they are located (Carpenter, Bauer & Erdogan, 2008).
The mixed method approach to research will be the most appropriate way to evaluate the situation. The qualitative research will be used to establish the interviewees’ perception on the changed social skills.
This will be done through a quantitative questionnaire. The questionnaire will be implemented to establish how Social Networking affects social skills of today’s generation. All the students and young lecturers in the sample will be given an equal opportunity to respond to the questionnaire. The questions will be divided into four sections.
The quantitative research methods will shed light in the numerical aspects of the age at which the youth began accessing the internet and especially the social networks and the time they spends while in the social networks and in the absence of the same how much time they used to spend interacting with their peers before they got glued to the social networks. How they interrelate to family members, friends, teachers or fellow students in case of the young lecturers and total strangers will also be covered in the questionnaire.
The other part of the interview will be audio taped where our research group will interact with the students and the young lecturers while recording the conversations. The questions will relate to those in the questionnaire but the interviewee will be able to provide in-depth and detailed explanations or reasoning for the given answers. The purpose of all this will be to establish whether there is a link between increased social networking.
Population and Sample
Our sample will be selected from the University of California Los Angeles. We shall have informed them earlier of our intentions of conducting a survey where the willing daily users of social network both students and young lecturers are expected to register. From the list, we shall then conduct a purposive sampling where our target will have to fulfill certain qualities before issuing of the questionnaire and we shall interview only those who uses internet on daily basis.
The researchers will use questionnaires and survey forms as research instruments. The survey form will enquire if the respondents use social networking sites and their frequency of using the sites.
After determining those who use social networking sites daily, questionnaires will be issued to them and the questionnaires will investigate from the respondents what social skills they have gained or lost from by using social network sites in terms of their relationships with teachers, family members, friends and strangers. The details of the questionnaire are as attached in Appendix 1.
Data Collection Methods
The researchers will distribute a survey form to each section in order to determine the users of social networking sites and we hope this will be achieved within one to two days. After the researchers collect the questionnaires, a list of the respondents which are social network site users will be organized then copies of the main questionnaire produced. The copies of the main questionnaire will depend on the number of the respondents.
However, extra copies will be reproduced if some respondents lose their questionnaires. The respondents will be given one to two days allowance to answer the questionnaire. The questions will be as attached in Appendix 1. Research assistants will be used to distribute and collect the questionnaires.
Once the deadline of the questionnaires is arrived at, the research assistants will coordinate with the students to retrieve all the questionnaires completely. The questionnaires gathered are supposed to contain all the needed data for the study and the data will then be organized, summarized, analyzed, and interpreted.
The researchers will use the following formulas to analyze the results from the questionnaires.
Frequency is the number of occurrences, proportion, or percentage of a specific response in a particular category in a set of data, while percentage is the proportion or share of the specific response in relation to the whole sample. This method of analysis will be used to determine the percentage of the respondents out of the total sample in terms of the percentage and the affected social skills due to the influence of social networking sites.
Each of the interviewer tape will also be transcribed by a professional transcribe and random selection of the tapes will be done to check the accuracy of transcription by the research assistants. The transcribed interviews will then be entered into a qualitative software program for their correlation to the questionnaires to be analyzed. The assisting research assistants will then read the themes that will emerge.
The coding of the themes will then be established and if disagreements about the coding arise, all parties shall agree through discussion, further sharpening of the codes if need arise and comparing the interviews.
Finally, all interviews will be coded individually and the results from the questionnaires will be tallied and calculated into percentages. Responses will be displayed using various tables and graphs. Information will be both lexis and numerical for a more complete picture of the effects of social networks to social skills of the current generation.
Affonso, B. (1999). Is the Internet Affecting the Social Skills of Our Children? Retrieved from http://www.sierrasource.com/cep612/internet.html#2
Carpenter, M; Bauer, T., & Erdogan, B. (2008). Principles of Management. Retrieved from http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/node/29091#web-29091
Thackeray, R., & Hunter, M. (2010). Empowering Youth: Use of Technology in Advocacy to Affect Social Change. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Volume 15, pages 575–591.