Overview of Social Networking Sites
Before discussing the intrinsic advantages and disadvantages of social networking sites for students, I think it is first best to come up with an overall concept and definition for social networking sites.
A social networking site is an online website which has a set platform that allows social relationships amongst individuals to exist. Each individual (usually) has their own specific profile in which they can engage in social interaction and share information about themselves with other users and their profiles through communication mediums such as 'instant messaging', 'calling' and 'video calling'.The more popular social networking sites for students include sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter -- however there are literally dozens and dozens of other social networking sites out there too (usually with a specific twist that defines them).
Advantages of Social Networking Sites for Students
Making Connections With People Who Have Similar Interests - a social networking site can be great for students who want to get into contact with other like minded people and students who share a hobby or particular interest. From this they can learn different aspects of their interest and actually enjoy talking and sharing about their specific interest and develop it and perhaps gain from others (On Facebook for example this can be done through 'groups' and 'fan pages' etc.). Whereas if social networking sites were not to exist they may not have had such an opportunity with close individuals.
Event Organization - a great benefit that social networking sites has brought for students is the ease of organization. If we take the massive (biggest - with over 800 million active users) online social networking site 'Facebook' for example -- a student can create an 'revision event/workshop' or party literally in minutes at the local university/college library -- whereas before she/he would have to get in contact with every individual and then arranged a suitable time and location. So from this aspect in can be a massive time saver for a student -- and are probably more inclined to actually create one due to there being less hassle.
Essentially Free Communication - through online social network sites for students to communicate and get in touch and arrange events etc. it is essentially a free means of communication. You can instant message and call (e.g. Facebook and Skype video calling) people all for free -- students can socialize and revise/study/test each together all for free through the means of a social networking site. Especially good for those (most) students who are needing to watch the pennies.
Staying Connected - for students a great benefit of a social networking site is 'staying connected' as after high school or graduation, beforehand people used to go there separate ways and it was difficult to maintain relationships due to distance etc. Now through such social sites it is easier to stay in touch and see how your 'old' friends are getting on. Another positive from social networking sites is the ability to find 'old friends' as well -- to get reintouch with people.
Disadvantages of Social Networking Sites for Students
Cyber-Bullying - perhaps one of the most disheartening negatives of social networking sites that affect particularly students is the case of 'cyber-bullying' -- which there have been many infamous cases of in the too recent past. Cyber-bullying is a form of bullying through the internet, which gives just another form and medium for bullies to intimidate their victims -- forcing the victim to be 'got at' not only at school but also from their home.
Giving Up too Much Information - in order to create a profile on a social networking site you have to inevitably at least provide some information, however there is a danger of providing too much information that can makes students vulnerable. E.g. If a student claims they are going to holiday on a particular date, this may be an indication for a potential robbery as they will know the house will be empty. Facebook and other networking sites are also likely to know perhaps more than you know it knows -- and that may disturb some students somewhat.
Psychological Problems - Addictiveness, Depression etc. - there have been countless studies into psychological issues for students that have occurred due to social networking sites -- from sites such as Facebook being too addictive (a source of procrastination - causing students to score poorly in exam results) to that of promotion of ill feeling and loneliness.
Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking Sites for Students
The list above was a rather 'tongue in cheek attempt' of the advantages and disadvantages of social network sites or students -- however hopefully you have gained at least an overview of the positive aspects and negative aspects to occur to students as a result of sites such as Facebook.
It needs to be understood that social networking sites now play an integral part within modern day living, they are going to exist in at least some form or another -- through all the benefits that social networking sites can bring for students such as a free medium of communication, hundreds of gaming applications that could expand a person's mind and intellect, a form of community (along with potentially new benefits in the future of social networking sites) it needs to be understood that there is also a negative aspect that comes with social networking sites for students too -- such as refraining them from enjoying other activities or important tasks like revision due to its addictiveness, and their not really being a limit as to what (particularly young students) are exposed to. There are obviously ways to limit these drawbacks of social networking sites to some extent -- through privacy settingsetc. but ultimately negatives are bound to exist at least in some form or another.
If you have any additional advantages and disadvantages of social networking sites for students or any general remarks then I encourage you to please leave a comment in the comments box below.