Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Is social media ruining childhood?

Well no. I mean,  yes? In some ways? But it doesn’t have to be this way…

It’s another confusing debate topic – which explains the close split vote of nearly 56% of Tuesdays class agreeing with the statement, leaving 44% taking the positive outlook and disagreeing.

I first signed up for Facebook in 2007, my grade 12 year. Before then, I chatted with my classmates, all people I knew, on instant messenger. I wasn’t trolled or bullied and I certainly didn’t feel like it ruined my teenage years.  Although I wasn’t using social media to it’s full extent. My profile settings were private and I didn’t utilize the online communities. I didn’t feel like it affected my life in negative ways – if anything it gave me people to talk to as I couldn’t just meet my friends at the mall, or grab something to eat, in the rural farming community in which I lived. I wasn’t old enough to drive and the nearest sign of civilization was 30 minutes away. At times, I felt isolated as it was, so I couldn’t imagine not having that outlet to stay connected to my friends. Social media didn’t impact my teenage years the way I’m reading about today – but social media has changed, especially how it is being used.

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Photo Credit: LivyAnn via Compfight cc

Today children are growing up much differently than I had, just as my childhood was much different than that of my parents. When social media came into play, I was transitioning from a teenager into an adult and I never knew what it was like to be just a preteen impacted by the digital world. Today, in the article How Social Media Affects Children, research shows “Almost half of 11- to 16-year-olds say they were bullied on social media, according to a study published by GirlGuiding last year (PDF).” Cyber-bullying is a huge issue that has led many children to take their own lives. It isn’t uncommon for many others go through difficult times of depression and mental health issues because of what is happening to them online. It’s devastating and if this is happening on social media, it is clear social media has greatly impacted many children’s lives in negative ways. As the agree side of the debate noted, now bullying follows kids home and we can’t escape social media.

I thought the You-Tube video “A Social Life” was very interesting. It is about a young girl with an addiction to social media. The life she appeared to be living online was nothing the one she lived, as she spent the whole day refreshing her feed, checking for likes, and taking pictures of a seemingly perfect life instead of spending time actually building the life she wanted to have. It’s common for people, especially children or teens trying to fit in, to want to project an ideal lifestyle, receive the instant gratification from friends liking their photos, and feel pressured to keep up with “snapping” everything they do via Snapchat. I feel that getting to wrapped up in documenting everything through a phone for the sake of sharing it with others can cause one to miss those “in the moment” occasions. However others are able to take a quick photo for memory and still enjoy the moment. I question whether the different between these two types of people causes me to question whether they are actually taking the photo for themselves to enjoy … or are they doing it for others?  For those who are addicted to social media, perhaps it is ruining their lives, but this is not the case for everyone and it depends on how it is being used.

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Photo Credit: birgerking via Compfight cc
When I consider the nostalgic memories of my own childhood, almost all of them included playing outside. With children more focused on technology, it is evident children don’t spend the same amount of time playing outside that my generation and the one before mine have experienced.The same article also claims that “British children spend an average of three hours a day on the internet, up by an hour on a year ago, the 2016 Childwise Monitor report found. Among 15- to 16-year-olds, the figure rises to almost five hours.” Spending more time online often means less time outdoors. I don’t want to see playing outside becoming obsolete in the next generations to come, but I also think the way children use technology depends on how they are exposed to it. At some point, if children are spending all of their free time in front of a screen, most parents would introduce boundaries around the use of tech. But this isn’t an option in all households and we know many of our students don’t have boundaries around tech use.  Therefore, we must teach students to be smart about the ways in which they use tech  so they are capable of making those decisions on their own.

Although social media has created a different childhood for many, does it necessarily mean that social media has ruined childhood? That’s a pretty strong statement if you ask me. Impact childhood…yes. Ruin? Lets not exaggerate.

Again, the common theme of each weeks debates is that technology is a tool, which has the power to be used for good or bad but the real power is with the one who uses it. It is your decision how you use social media and bringing education and awareness to issues like cyber-bullying, addiction and proper internet use is imperative to whether social media has a positive or negative impact on one’s life. I think we are often quick to blame technology for being the source of so much “evil” in our debate topics, but we are forgetting that it is up to the people using tech themselves as to whether they use it in positive or negative ways. People make the decisions. People need to be educated about digital citizenship and proper internet use. It is up to adults – parents and teachers alike – to educate and have conversations with their children about proper internet use and internet safety.

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Photo Credit: keepitsurreal via Compfight cc
It’s impossible to shield children from the using technology -after all it’s not going anywhere – but we can teach them how to use it in appropriate, positive and meaningful ways.

We often hear about the negative stories surrounding social media, but there are also many great things that social media can offer such as resources, community, communication and support – to name a few. Just because childhood today might look different than 30 years ago, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Our world is different and will continue to change and develop what childhood may or may not look like. Instead of trying to eliminate our children’s use of the internet entirely and use blanket statements like “Tech is bad!” and “Social media ruins childhood!” let’s think critically about how we choose model, educate and view social media. In fact the article 5 Reasons Why Social Media Might Actually Be Good For Your Child outlines 5 key benefits which include:

  • Keeping up with Friends
  • Collaborate with Schoolmates
  • Discover new interests
  • Get prepared for the future
  • Get creative

Anything in excess can be come dangerous or harmful. But using social media in moderation can allow for some really positive experiences that children in past generations were not able to experience. These new experiences and ways of learning can actually improve one’s childhood. So why do hear about the negative stories so much more often than positive?

Instead of complaining and shielding kids from social media – or what I like to think of as  being reactive in how we deal with social media use – let’s be proactive and teach how social media can enhance our children’s opportunities and interactions with the world around them.

 

 

 

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One thought on “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

  1. I agree with your idea about embracing technology- it is the inevitable in our society and there is arguably no way to avoid it! I also agree with similar ideas on other blogs that have stated, why compare childhoods between generations? They come from different contexts that are too hard to compare. Great post this week!

    Like

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