‘Children’s moral character hampered by social media’

Forgiveness, honesty and humility are all lacking on social media, which parents say is holding back children’s moral development.

In a survey, only 15 per cent of parents said sites such as Facebook provided a positive influence on a young person’s character.

However, they also noted that humour, appreciation of beauty and courage are prevalent across social media.

Self-control

The research was done by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, part of the University of Birmingham.

It questioned over 1,500 parents and found 40 per cent were “concerned” or “extremely concerned” about the effect of the social media sites.

Asked about which character traits they felt were most absent, 24 per cent identified forgiveness and self-control, with 21 per cent listing honesty. Just under a fifth said humility.

Love

Questioned about which negative traits they had seen in the last month online, 60 per cent of parents said anger and hostility. Over half highlighted arrogance.

The researchers said 55 per cent of respondents agreed that social media “hinders/undermines” a young person’s moral development.

However, nearly three quarters of those questioned said they saw content with a “positive moral message” at least once a day.

And when asked to give the top five character strengths which regularly appear on social media, parents included humour, appreciation of beauty, creativity, love and courage.

Pitfalls

Dr Blaire Morgan, a Research Fellow at the Centre, said: “Social media is not going away, so by learning more about this relationship we should be able to maximise the benefits of social media use and avoid the pitfalls.”

While noting the questioning was not in-depth research, Dr Morgan said it “highlights high levels of anxiety about the impact of social media networks on the character development of young people”.

In recent months, Christian content on social media has proved popular, with a Church of England message about prayer and a pastor’s challenge on same-sex marriage both going viral.

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