The Great EdTech Debate Round Five! – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

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Congratulations to both teams on another excellent debate, this week focusing on the statement of, Social Media is Ruining Childhood. Leading into this debate, I had my mind set to vote on the agree side of the topic with Fasiha, Gunpreesh and Dami. However, after the opening statement videos and throughout the debate discussion amongst my classmates, my perspective shifted to the disagree side of the topic with Jennifer, Shivali and Mike. Ultimately, the deciding factor for me was when Kelly mentioned more of a parental lens on the topic and questioning whether social media has more so ruined parenthood, rather than childhood. Even though my opinion on the topic was persuaded based on more of a discussion point during the debate, rather than the opening statement videos or shared readings, both teams still presented several valid points which eventually supported my final decision.

Social Media is Ruining Childhood *Agree*

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-Social Media and Childhood: The overuse of social media robs children of the opportunity to have an authentic and meaningful life. Before social media even existed, children spent their time playing outside and building sustainable connections with both family and friends. I am beyond grateful for the childhood that I had growing up when the use of technology was very much limited. Most of my time outside of school was spent playing sports, camping at Lake Diefenbaker, or running in the fields at the family farm in small town Saskatchewan. Our hands were always dirty, our hair constantly messy, but as kids, any moment that we could get outside and explore, we took it. Within these moments, we had the ability to be creative, use our imagination and not to mention that we were always on the move and active. The agree team concluded their opening video with the statement of, “Let kids be kids!” and this could not be anymore true for my siblings and I growing up.

-Dangers of Social Media: With the use of social media, cyberbullying is evident which can then lead to severe mental health issues for children such as depression, anxiety and sadly, even suicide. As a child, I was very lucky that I did not experience a lot of bullying growing up. However, I do remember one instance that I was the victim of bullying, particularly cyberbullying over MSN chat, which is a moment and a truly horrific feeling that I will never forget. I would assume that the words that were said to me that night perhaps would have never actually been said to my face. However, because this so called “friend” was able to hide behind a screen and a keyboard, this form of bullying was much more accessible to them. Matt Walsh also refers to a study completed by Facebook and Instagram which discovered how the use of social media by children, more specifically girls, results in them feeling lonely and struggling with body image issues and their self-esteem.

Social Media is Ruining Childhood *Disagree*

-Building Community for Marginalized Youth: As quoted by Mike in the disagree team opening statement video, “For underrepresented or marginalized youth, social media can be powerful for building community.” For children that are living in a community where they feel alone or rejected, social media provides them with a form of connection and the opportunity to join groups and build relationships with those that accept, understand, and welcome them. Additionally, as Sweet, LeBlanc, Stough and Sweany (2019) describe about those living with a disability, “Individuals with disabilities often encounter challenges in establishing social relationships and sustaining connections to their community” (2). The use of social media through apps such as Facebook allows for people living with a disability to connect with family and friends in a comfortable way, allowing for that sense of belonging and also “a way [for them] to overcome social and environmental barriers” (3).

-Social Media and Real-Life Comparisons: Presented in the disagree team opening statement video and also during the class debate discussion, there were two particular scenarios shared where the use of social media by children was compared to somewhat more relatable and real-life circumstances. The first comparison was about a child learning to swim, and the second was about a teenager learning to drive a car. For both instances, there is also a requirement for the child or teen to receive proper education, supervision, guidance, and support by an adult before eventually gaining more independence. As argued by the disagree team, the same approach should be used when a child is learning to navigate social media. As adults, we cannot assume that when we hand a child an iPad or cellphone for the first time that they are automatically going to have the acquired skill set to use it both purposely and properly. Therefore, as technology continues to rapidly advance, it is crucial for both parents and educators to continually monitor and educate children about the use of social media.

Final Thoughts

To conclude my thoughts on this debate topic, social media is not ruining childhood, but rather it is ruining parenthood. As technology continues to evolve, it becomes difficult for parents to stay informed on the latest apps and trends that their child may be accessing via social media. Therefore, it becomes challenging to locate the appropriate information and relevant training to allow parents to better educate not only themselves but also their children on the appropriate use of social media. Essentially, this is the importance of teaching children about digital citizenship from a parent’s perspective.

As Kimberly mentioned during the debate discussion, my concern for parents is that as information within this area of technology becomes too overwhelming or less accessible, will the responsibility of teaching children about digital citizenship regarding social media fall more so on the educator rather than the parent? Perhaps this is what I am already experiencing as an educator, as I frequently find myself having conversations with my students regarding the appropriateness of what they should or should not be watching on apps at home such as YouTube or also the video games they are playing. Often, what they tell me they are watching or playing at home is very concerning. Then again, is it my place to help influence that decision for my students, when what they are watching on YouTube or the video game they are playing at home is technically under their parents’ supervision and not mine? In the end, I simply am hopeful that the education and perspective that I can provide to my students in relation to this important topic, will therefore resonate with them enough to continue with them as they navigate the use of social media for the future.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

7 Replies to “The Great EdTech Debate Round Five! – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?”

  1. Thanks for the reflection. I agree with your thoughts that using social media has both advantages and disadvantages. As there are issues of cyberbullying and kids can not judge the right and wrong in the early phases. Also, the nine elements of Digital Citizenship explains us how we can be good citizens online and it is the duty of both teachers and parents to guide kids how to take advantages from social media and how they can use block options if they find themselves in trouble.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Amanpreet!
      Thank you so much for your response to my blog post, I really appreciate it! Yes, monitoring, supervising, guiding and supporting children’s use of social media is critical. There are just too many dangers lurking out there on social media for young children and our youth, if not properly educated on the matter. As an educator, I personally and professionally do not feel well educated or trained on the important topic of digital citizenship. Perhaps a professional goal of mine going forward will be to seek more professional development within this area!

  2. Thanks for the reflective post!

    I also agree that Kelly’s comment was excellent and I wish we had thought of it. Before social media kids had to use the house phone or be in other children’s presence to communicate outside of school. Now there is an unlimited window of opportunity if they have access to their own devices. Parents are then faced with the decision of trusting their kids or invading their privacy. This is not a decision I look forward to when my son is older.

    I do think the let kids be kids argument is subjective to what your childhood experiences were. I grew up in the 80’s/90’s, but I had early access to video games and cable as a kid. For me, they were an escape from the bullying I experienced in person. Going outside meant facing the people who targeted me. There wasn’t social media to worry about until high school and even then dial-up kept it limited.

    The big challenge, as you said, is how rapidly things progress. I think the only way we can do this is teach digital citizen ship skills that are transferable to social media in general. Think of how learning how to drive has changed over the years. The basics are there, but each year there are a few new changes.

    I’m sure you’re doing a great job providing your students those transferable skills.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Mike!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and for your insightful comments! I am not a Mom yet, but I to worry when the time comes of when I need to monitor my child’s use of their technology and social media. A big challenge ahead of me, but one that I am not so much looking forward to. I am certain that you will do a fabulous job of educating and guiding your son when he is older as well on his use of technology, even though I realize it will not be easy!
      I am so sorry to hear of the experience of bullying that you went through growing up, but glad to hear that the outlet and source of technology helped to comfort you and provide you with a safe space to escape!
      Dial-up internet seems like ages ago doesn’t it? But somehow, I can still hear the sound it would make on my family computer when connecting, let alone it made a busy signal on the main phone line if someone was trying to call!

  3. brooke kemp says: Reply

    Awesome Response Alyssa!
    I am also an early educator, and if it wasn’t for my students I would be extremely out of the loop! I am definitly not totally in the loop but it more so thanks to my little friends. One thing I find so interesting is the deception so many of the “children” platforms and shows have! There are characters with sweet and cuddly names, but when you hear more about it or look into them, they truly are not best suited for young children. It is actually so disturbing. I agree that it is not ruining childhood, but can have a hug impact on child’s play, imagination, etc.
    Childhood is definitly adapting quicker than anyone could imagine and is so different than thier parents childhood. I give all parents props because that can not be an easy job!
    I guess as teachers it is also our responsibility to help them out and also teach our students digital citizenship, although still hard when weare trying to keep up as well!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Brooke!
      So great to hear from you and thank you so much for your response to my blog post. I really appreciate it! It is always great connecting alongside primary educators! 🙂
      You are so right on the comment of video game characters, shows or movies that our students talk about in class and at the time us not really knowing what they are talking about, until later and further research on our own. Perhaps that is the deception that some families are experiencing with technology and social media. It all “sounds” like a good fit when your child mentions it, but until you take the time to really learn more about it, then you quickly realize that it is not age appropriate!

  4. Kelly Ziegler says: Reply

    As always, I appreciated reading your post and was thinking very similar reflections that you were. I too wonder if social media is really ruining childhood, or if in fact, it’s more targeted towards parenting. All too often we get busy and give our kiddos devices, or what they want in order to work on whatever we were working on, or just getting some time for ourselves. I think educators have taken on too much of the responsibility, and less is focused on at home. Something that is very concerning indeed!

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