Once again we were presenting with a great debate in class.  This week’s topic- Social Media is ruining childhood.  I couldn’t help but think of my own upbringing with social media.  Those experiences seemed positive, with MSN chats and so on, I never really had any issues with them nor did I have social media attached to every aspect of my life which students seem to face today.  So where did I stand on the topic?  I felt myself leaning in favour of the argument.

Not growing up surrounded by social media to me was a benefit.  The experiences of my childhood and adolescence were real in the moment activities.  Never did I take part in a high school basketball game and then think to myself, “I wonder how I might be able to post this online.”  Or to that degree, post an accomplishment and wait for likes to come in.  I couldn’t help to think of this tweet from when Lebron James broke the point scoring record in the NBA.


Response to above tweet.

So really is social media to blame?  Or is this more of an issue with how we currently live our lives.  Is the experience of being there not enough, or is it easier to experience more through shared experiences of other users.  Maybe it’s a generational idea?  I was brought up with some degree of technology, my father to this day still does not have his own cell phone.  He would be the one sitting in the front row, much like this gentleman.  For me the use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other apps, provide a certain entertainment value.  They also allow me to stay up to date with friends and family members.  As I look at my own situation with a 9 and 11 year old at home, will I allow them social media- sure, will I focus on teaching them how to use it properly- DEFINITELY.  For me social media will never replace the present-moment awareness and engagement that real life events offer though.

Valeska and Bart presented strong arguments supporting the risks of social media.  Their shared article  by Freya India enforces this concept.  Will current kids have these experiences or will they be met with sitting, staring at their devices with “soaring screen times.”  The article shows some alarming facts correlated with self-harm and depression among social media users.  Those who experience face-to-face socialization were 20% less likely to have these feelings.  The problem will social media is the algorithms used.  They know how to draw the users in, keeping them hooked, looking for that instant gratification fix.  Pretty scary facts, especially when these apps are being accessed by younger and younger students who are still very impressionable and easily swayed.  The risks go on and on, but as Brendon and Brittany argued, so do the benefits.

Back to my days on MSN, it allowed me to connect with others that I previously wasn’t able too. Maybe it was a geographical issue, out of town friends I couldn’t visit with for instance.  For today’s youth, social media can be scary, especially when that’s what they hear about or have thrown at them.  How about the good?  As educators, we need to share the benefits of social media as well.  Offering opportunities for students to connect to others they might not normally of been able too.  Learning new skills or expanding their knowledge through different networks tailored to their interests.  Heck, I have yet to see a student not engage in Science by watching a Mark Rober video.

In Eva Amin’s video, she does a great job in examining who we relate to in our social media experiences.  She says that to have a positive experience with social media, the users need to control what and who they follow.  4 groups are presented.  The first- friends, family members and positive acquaintances.  Too often, people are caught interacting and dwelling on people who present negative experiences.  Why would you want to follow someone who bullies you?  The second- individuals who share their same or similar goals to you.  You can take and learn from their experiences, maybe even connect with them.  The third- inspirational individuals, the feel good stories that make you smile or want to achieve more.  Lastly- entertainers, those we enjoy to listen or watch along with.  All of these users should offer the follower POSITIVE experiences.   Mindful users of social media who surround themselves with positive experiences will have a better experience….. weird.  Filter out the toxic and negative- seems easy enough.

So where do I stand now.  I’m the cautiously optimistic parent/teacher that is sliding back and forth in the middle of the teeter totter.  On one hand, the negative experiences that I’ve seen my students experience with cyber bullying and harassment is quite alarming.  Seeing students moods swing drastically because of what they’ve seen, been sent, or sent themselves, is upsetting.  By contrast, seeing the lightbulb moments or excitement that can be created when they are able to have positive experiences through social media, is amazing.  Seeing students have opportunities to have unique experiences from around the globe that wouldn’t be otherwise accessible, well hard to complain or argue with that.  How students take part in their social media channels is out of our control.  Teaching them the skills and etiquette of having an online presence and looking for the positives in posts, could be life changing.  How they approach the teeter totter is the question.  Will they let their partner slam to the ground or will they be a helpful partner, offering a positive experience for the other users.

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Until next week, hold on for the ride when Jeff and I present our argument against technology creating an equitable society.