Is social media ruining childhood?!… a GREAT debate.

This week’s debate topic was the one I was most excited for.

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I think I was the most excited because I truly believe that social media has an impact on lives, not just during childhood, but at every age. Don’t get me wrong, I love my social media. If I look at my cell phone’s homepage right now, I have: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, and my Google Classroom. ALL ON MY HOMEPAGE. They are just a click away anytime I open my phone, and most of the time I find myself checking them. I think there  can be so many negatives to social media. I think people are obsessed with showing how “great” their lives are, people worry about the amount of likes or views they get, how many followers they have,  and getting the”right”picture. It is exhausting.


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When I think about my childhood, I really love the idea that I was outside so much. I would either be at a campsite with my family, or at the park with my friends. I was out in the community, interacting, until probably grade 9. Then it started to slow down. At this point, if I wasn’t at a house hanging out, I would be driving around with my friends, but there still wasn’t too much social media use.


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Now when I think about my students, who are in grade 11 and 12, their whole life is surrounded by social media. I have to remind them, and sometimes fight with them to get off their social media apps. They feel a constant need to be connected to their friends. They do not think it is rude to tell me to “hold on, while the send this quick” and they can’t seem to pry themselves away, even to meet a deadline.

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Before this debate, I wondered if their constant technology use (mainly social media) was leading to the decrease in productivity. Are they so accustomed to sitting there, surfing the net (doing nothing) that they find it hard to complete anything else, such as assignments? I also wondered if it was having an effect on their emotional state. Many of my students do not cope well, cannot understand how to improve, or do not have the motivation to do so.

I was very interested to see what research both sides could come up with, and if I could be swayed.

Melinda, Alyssa and Lori came in hard with some great issues regarding mental health, sleep issues and digital health in general. I was very interested in their point about Facebook depression. They explained that this could occur in adolescences who used social media too much. When I read the article  The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families It was explained that “researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” It is disturbing to think that some depression may be triggered by social media use. Is there a correlation between maybe seeing someones perfect life compared to yours, or just the amount of media we take in daily? The article also explains that “According to a recent poll, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day.2 Seventy-five percent of teenagers now own cell phones, and 25% use them for social media, 54% use them for texting, and 24% use them for instant messaging.3 Thus, a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones.” I already explained that I check my social media apps almost every time I open my phone. I do not know if I would be able to be as connected as my students are. They have a million more friends that are on their phones just as much as they are. The fact that they are so immersed is scary.

I  do worry about the negatives of social media. This particular article still defends the other side stating “Social media sites allow teens to accomplish online many of the tasks that are important to them offline: staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas. Social media participation also can offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community, and the world.” They point out that it is important to understand that it is not all bad, but my question still remains, is so much social media healthy?

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In their opening statement the agree group explained that students feel anxiety when they do not get enough likes, and that they thrive on the instant satisfaction that social media provides. One of my favorite parts of the debate was the example of tide pods. This was mind blowing for me. I never understood why people were completing the challenge but, as explained, the idea of risk taking behavior would get them likes; therefore it would make them feel good, like they belonged and that they were “cool.”

This was also reiterated in the article B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun.They explain that “An underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that moderates social behaviour and decision making. Mix that with how quickly gratification can be gained on the internet – in the form of likes, shares and views – and it’s the perfect equation for a challenge that makes little sense but carries serious shock value to spread quickly.” The article goes onto explain how “Social media is simply a tool by which they can do this and gain gratification by other people. So it amplifies some of the effects of young people’s natural tendency towards risk but it’s not the actual cause of risky behaviour.” Young people just want to be accepted, that has been an issue in schools for years, now we have a tool that can receive likes from anyone, anywhere. When you think about wanting to be accepted, it is no surprise that social media is the “go to” for that feeling.

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One reason expressed, I never even thought about. In the article, Whatever Happened to Childhood? Rebecca Sweat explains how ” Children are under tremendous pressure to ‘be mature’ and to ‘grow up’ when they have not had the chance to develop emotional maturity. Children in the 8- to 12-year-old age bracket are becoming more like teenagers, leaning more and more toward teen styles, teen attitudes and teen behavior. It used to be that kids would have to go out of their way to find these sorts of materials, but now they just need to turn on their television or go to the Internet.” The fact that some children are overexposed to social media could be impacting how fast they group up. They are no longer experiencing childhood because they feel the need to be popular and look good at such a young age.


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This point was also supported in the article Kid Complicated: Childhood Isn’t What It Used To Be. They say that in “today’s children now live in three worlds: the real world, the imaginary world, and now, more increasingly, the virtual/mobile screen world. When used mindfully and sparingly, this third world can add a whole new dimension of creativity, education, and delight. But when used mindlessly or as a default, we run the risk of this new virtual world creeping into the time kids would have spent using their own imagination and creativity.”  But that great point was also backed up with “It’s easy to look back and say, “Gosh, things were so much better/easier/simpler when we were younger” or “Tech is ruining these kids’ lives” – but it’s time to change that thinking. Things are different for children growing up right now. They’ll be totally different again in another ten years.” and it was at this point in the debate that I started to see the good in social media.

To be honest, I was a little bothered that I fit into the article, Hey parents, stop romanticizing your 1970s summer so much. Although I was born far after the 70’s, I found myself in the same mindset. I just want children to be out playing, when in reality there are a lot of reasons why children might not be out so much. The article explains how “In contrast to our vision of the 70’s, parents today feel pressured to over-schedule their kids’ entire summer, with classes and activities galore. Worse, the story goes, we’re afraid to indulge those simple, iconic pleasures, like drinking from the hose or building a fort in the backyard.” They also explained that “Families now, are more fearful and would never allow a 9- or 10-year old to spend the day, unsupervised, at the pool. It’s tautological, she explains. Adults weren’t around as much in the 70’s, so they worried less; and they didn’t worry as much, so they were around less.” Both of these reasons are valid. I hear and think these reasons all the time. Maybe it is not so much our children’s fault, but the limitations and perimeters we put on them. Maybe we are forcing them to be on their devices more because we are so worried about them.

Erin, Brooke and Daniel argued that there were many positives to social media. They said that social media had the power to strengthen relationships through a sense of belonging, it could encourage them, inspire them and make them feel like they were not alone. This can all be accomplished by staying in touch with friends and finding people with similar interests. By participating in social media, the group explained that this increases confidence because they make new friends, and are able to find genuine support groups… who could argue with that? It also allows students to stay anonymous about their thought and feelings…. This is huge for teenagers. They hate expressing themselves, but feel good when they do it, so being on social media has helped many students have an outlet that they wouldn’t normally have.

This was also studied in the article 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media They explain that “As kids begin to use tools such as InstagramSnapchatTwitterand even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives. It lets them do good. It strengthens friendships. It can offer a sense of belonging. It provides genuine support. It helps them express themselves.”

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Not only that, but it is allowing student to decide how they want to be portrayed, what they want to post which gives them a choice. It encourages learning and creates a better world because they are given a voice. The article How Social Media Helps Teens Cope With Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Harm  emphasizes that although there are stigmas to social media, “Most youth are interacting responsibly, productively, and in meaningful ways” For example “YouTube remains an innovative way for youth to reflect on their emotional and mental health against the backdrop of others who share similar experiences through the videos they upload.” While listening and reading, I found myself understanding their point of view. If students felt that they could be open, use social media for good and gain a voice, then maybe there was something important about what these children are going through and experiencing.

With ALL of this information, I wish there was an undecided choice because now that I have heard both sides, I do not know what the answer is. I still think there are so many negatives that come with social media, but there are so many positives as well.

What I have decided to do is teach digital citizenship every chance I get. Why? Well, because I feel like I need to embrace technology and social media. It is part of my student’s lives. I cannot just preach that it is bad, and expect them to listen… no teenager has really every listened no matter the topic, so why fight it? I should just teach them proper and improper use and they reasoning behind it. Allow them to learn about digital health and the impact social media can have, then allow them to lead their lives with the correct information. I really feel like this is the best option for me and my students because I can allow them to be aware and allow them to participate.

I want to thank both groups for presenting great research. I do not know where I fall, but I do know what I have to do in my classroom!

 

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2 thoughts on “Is social media ruining childhood?!… a GREAT debate.

  1. Great blog post Amy! Of course the tricky part with all of these debates is that it is really difficult to choose which side to land on. Before researching this topic, I probably would have sided with team agree. It seems all we hear about in the media are examples of how social media is ruining childhood. Of course there are many negatives associated with social media and we acknowledge that in our debate. But like it or not, social media is here to stay and rather than try and fight it or ban it, we have the power to make it into something good. This is where all of the positives fit in. Teaching children at an early age about positive digital citizenship, digital safety and well is critical is we want social media to become an overwhelmingly positive tool. We have the power to turn it from a liability into an asset.

    Liked by 1 person

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