Pointing Fingers: Who is to Blame? Children? Parents? Technology?

Debate 5: Social Media is ruining childhood. So many questions with this debate!

First off, taking a page from Christina’s book, what is the definition of ‘childhood’?

Oxford Dictionary

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a “child” is young, “below puberty”, which depending on many factors, can be as young as 8-10 years old! (The Agree side defined childhood as, “from infancy to age 12”). 

The Agree side had many good arguments, including that social media robs children of having an authentic life, the effects of social media on children’s physical health and the effects of cyberbullying on children’s mental health. 

This reminded me of a conversation I had with my optometrist the last time my kids were at the eye doctor. Both children did not need glasses but I asked about the prevalence of glasses in youth today. She said that she has seen an increase in the amount of youth who need glasses, she believes this is because of the amount of time children are spending in front of screens.

Her opinions are supported by this study done in the UK in 2019. Where “the percentage of 13-16 year olds in the U.K. who need glasses has nearly doubled over the past seven years — from 20% in 2012 to 35% in 2018.” The optometrists did state that more research needs to be done to determine the long term effects of screen time on youth. What was interesting is that this study also asked parents about getting their children off screens, and that “73% of surveyed parents (2,000) said it is a “challenge” to get their children to stop staring at some type of screen for a few hours.”

That article on screen time then took me to another article on guess what – PARENTING! This article summarizes a study done (in Canada!) on what giving technology as a “treat” does to a child’s desire for technology. Researchers said that by rewarding children with technology it actually increases a children’s want for technology. But, this article also touched on many of the topics that were discussed in the debate, including:

  • How childhood is an important development time, a time for forming habits, etc.
  • The amount of time the parent is on a device (and it’s correlation to the amount of time the child is on a device)
  • Mentions the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (see below). These guidelines are made by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (I did now know that is a thing). These guidelines are outlined by developmental stages and each has a recommendation about the amount of screen time that is appropriate.
  • The effects of screen time on the social and academic skills of youth

As a mother of a 9 and 6 year old, I feel that it is very much the responsibility of the parent to both teach about and monitor technology use. The Disagree side spoke about the responsibility of both parents and others to “push for laws to protect kids”. We know the risks of social media, so what are we going to do about it?

During the height of the pandemic, I caved and allowed my then 7 year old to get Facebook Messenger Kids to video chat with friends. A few things came of this:

  1. The amount of teaching/educating I had to do to learn about the App – how parent approval worked, what the child was/was not allowed to do, etc.
  2. The amount of teaching/education I had to do with my child. How to properly video chat – not just hang up whenever they feel like it, to actually SPEAK to the person on the video chat, not to send 1,000,000 emojis at a time, etc.
  3. How addicting technology can be! Presently, we have rules about screen time and when/why video chats (or any technology) can be used!

I do believe it is difficult for parents not to cave into the pressures of allowing more screen time. As Dr. Brenna Hicks said, parents can be lazy and make excuses for why their child/ren have so much screen time. Hicks speaks to the power of social media, about how it is an addiction. I can see this already, in both my children and my students. Social media CAN also be used for good (as the Disagree side said, to make new connections, especially for marginalized students).

Is social media “ruining childhood”?? Well that depends on a lot of factors! But one more story to end this post: A few weeks ago, I brought my 6 year old to my 9 year old’s softball game. My 6 year old was bored and at first she was shy and clung to me, but after a few innings she warmed up and joined other younger siblings in/around a puddle near the bleachers. At the same time there was another young child that was also there at the ball game, but they were engaged in watching a cell phone. Now, one can say that the child on the phone is missing out on social interactions and skills! Or one could say that the child was shy and does not like being around new people. OR one could say that was the parent’s decision to allow the phone in the first place… 

Is that a big deal that the kid was on the phone during a ballgame? No. But it will be interesting to see what the long term effects are from children using social media. 

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One Response to Pointing Fingers: Who is to Blame? Children? Parents? Technology?

  1. Brittney Meyers says:

    Great post Nicole. I do not have kids of my own yet, so it is nice to read some things for a parent perspective. The glasses statistics are very interesting! I agree that it will be interesting to learn more about how this may be connected to technology/screen use as well as the long term effects that come out of the social media and technology use. Based on my own experiences growing up along side social media & technology basically coming out during my youth, I am guessing it may be more negative than positive for many.

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