I was initially on the agree side of this topic, but after the debate and reading provided materials, I start questioning my position and questioning if social media is ruining childhood. I need to admit that social media does have some negative effects on children, but it’s not ruining childhood. We need to be aware that the time is different now, childhood for kids is different now, and parents’ responsibilities are different now.
Stop Making a Comparison
I hear both debate sides as well as as the videos from Matt and Dr. Brenna mentioned somethings like “when I was a kid, I don’t have so many screens in front of me except TV,” and “when I was growing up, I spent times playing in the field,” “when I was growing up, I didn’t have a phone, which turns out fine.” I just want to say stop making a comparison between your childhood and nowadays kids’ childhood because times are changing. We can never go back to the 70s, 80s, or 90s. There is no standard about what is a good childhood and what is not a good childhood. If children enjoy the moment, that’s a good childhood. We enjoyed the moment when we were having a lot of physical activities and when we were running around and playing on the field. It was a good childhood for us. Today’s kids enjoyed technology, enjoyed digital activities on iPads, and enjoyed social media. It is a good childhood for them. If we hold a biased opinion that I had a good childhood because it was full of physical activities and no social media and too much technology, kids in today’s childhood are ruined because they may not have as much as physical activities than I had, and it is full of social media and advanced technology, we will never have an impartial perspective to analyze the effects of social media on children. Our childhood and kids in today’s childhood are not comparable.
The Social Media Dilemma
I admit that social media has negative effects on children. As the agreed side mentioned, social media is an online predator. It spreads sexual messages to kids and affects children’s mental health. Social media would cause obesity issues because it affects children’s physical development social media is lacking physical activity and also losing sleep (Bizieff, 2021). Social media is superficial and impacts children to build long-term face-to-face relationships. Online advertising through social media provides false information to children. As Matt (2021) mentioned in his video, social media for children causes stress, anxiety, depression, lower life satisfaction, and makes kids lonelier. Moreover, Dr. Brenna (2021) mentioned that social media are horrible for kids. Pre-teens and teens who are always on their phones are addicted to their devices. She provides an example of a 14-year-old girl who does not want to get up from bed because she lost her phone. Children on social media will have unfiltered and unprotected information. I agree that social media does have a lot of negative impacts on children’s physical, mental and social well-being, but social media has positive impacts on children as well.
As the disagreed side mentioned, social media can allow children to connect with their friends. Social media provides more learning opportunities, such as children can use TikTok to share culture and language. Social media doesn’t just have to be fake news, trolls, echo chambers, and clout chasing, it can be used for empowering children and helping others (SmartSocial, 2022). Moreover, social media can make space for children to have a voice and advocate for children globally. Like Bana, a 7-year-old girl, uses Twitter to write a story about her experience in the challenging war and advocates a voice for peace (Chelsey, 2020). Social media then becomes a powerful tool for activism and advocacy.
People with disabilities often encounter challenges in establishing the social relationship and sustaining connections to their community. Social and physical barriers often make it difficult for people with disabilities to mobilize, hear, or understand others, to speak, or communicate. Social media is a wonderful platform for people with disabilities to connect, build friendships, connect with communities, receive or give information, share knowledge, find social support groups, and advocate for themselves (Sweet et al, 2020). The development of social media is essential and inclusive for all children with disabilities.
Parenting Children in the Age of Screens
Although social media has those negative effects, with proper guidance and supports from teachers and parents, I think social media will become a powerful learning tool for our children. A lot of parents don’t know what to do, like Dr. Brenna mentioned in her video, they would say what am I support to do or do I just take their phones away from them? Parenting has never been easy, and the rise of social media has introduced a new wrinkle to the challenges of parenthood (Auxier et al., 2020). Parents need to say “I am going to protect you no matter what.” Same as the disagreed side mentioned, teachers and parents are the rule makers, we need to enforce the rules towards our children, and determine what is best for kids in the long-term. Social media cannot be used as a method to engage with children if parents are busy. Parents cannot throw children a phone and let them do whatever they want to on the phone without monitoring them. If parents are unsure about how much screen time is too much for their young child. The World Health Organization issued strict guidelines on the amount of time young children should spend in front of screens.
- None for kids younger than 2 years old
- Just 60 minutes per day for 3- to 4-year-olds
Parents need to monitor how much time children spend on screen and monitor what social media apps their children would use. There are many parental control apps that parents can install on their phones and their children’s phones. Parents can use parental control features to monitor their children’s screen time, protect children from inappropriate content online, such as pornography or other adult content, and restrict what their child does online. Unlimited social media apps and unlimited screening time would harm children’s well-being.
Digital leadership is new terminology for me and I was inspired by ideas of digital leadership. As Miller (2018) mentioned, digital leadership is defined as using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others. Digital citizenship is the norm of appropriate, responsible behaviour concerning technology use. Under the guidance of digital citizenship, students need to learn how to use the Internet and social media in a responsible and ethical manner. Compare with digital citizenship, we need to educate children to develop digital leadership skills. Using social media as a tool to advocate for social inequality. Teaching students to be a part of the online community is not enough, educators should teach their students to shape and influence the online community in a positive way. Students are not only to be good digital citizens but also to be good digital leaders. If today’s children are living in the world of screens and spending so much time engaging with their peers in the digital world, simply knowing how to behave is not enough, they need to learn how to lead. Using social media as a platform to advocate for others’ well-being and social injustice. They need to know how to influence others appropriately online. I like the idea of digital leadership. I think educators have a responsibility to teach children how to become digital leaders, which is the correct way for us to guide children to use social media.
In conclusion, firstly, we cannot make a comparison between our childhood and today’s kids’ childhood, and use our standards to judge if children have a good childhood today. Social media have some negative impacts on children, but with appropriate guidance and supports from parents, social media can become a powerful tool to give and receive information and knowledge as well as advocate and influence others positively as a digital leader.