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*
-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.
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!