There’s no disagreeing with the fact that social media is a huge part of our current society. It is interwoven into education, business, culture, community, and so much more. Our world uses social media to not only connect with others, but to also join in social activism and make change, which is something that I’ve posted about before. We are able to raise a voice on critical, necessary social justice matters, such as what we are seeing now with #BlackLivesMatter. Social media allows us to learn, see new perspectives, and stand in solidarity with people around the globe. I, for one, use social media in my personal and professional life on a daily basis and see so much value in it. However, even though social media can be used in a positive way, there are also important things to be aware of. It’s important to understand both sides to social media, negative and positive, which is why debating and researching topics from various viewpoints is crucial.
This week, we had the opportunity to learn and take part in a debate that centred around the question: “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?” Laurie & Christina, who were on the “agree” side, and Amy & Dean, the disagree side, both brought forward valid and crucial points on the matter. Going into the debate, I had a lot of knowledge on the positive impacts of social media because it is a topic that I am passionate about. However, as I listened and learned from Laurie and Christina, I was able to reflect on some of the areas of concern that social media brings. They brought up valuable points about the negative impacts of social media in the lives of children, such as how it effects children’s mental health with cyberbullying, comparison, peer pressure, and lack of face-to-face communication. In an article called “Disadvantages of Social Networking: Surprising Insights from Teens,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell says that “parents have become increasingly worried about their children’s safety online and how to protect their personal data.” It is clear that there are many parents and guardians concerned about the negative effects of social media in childhood. However, sometimes we are most fearful of the things that we aren’t familiar or comfortable with.
In response to the argument that “social media is ruining childhood,” Dean and Amy reminded us that social media can actually lead to more connection because students can use technology to join groups with other kids their age, to showcase their creativity, spread social awareness, and to make a positive impact. They told stories of how parents actually believe social media has given them an opportunity to have more open communication with their children. As we discussed more about the positive impacts in our class conversation, we highlighted the fact that the issues of peer pressure, bullying, and comparison are already happening offline. These are issues that I dealt with as a child without the use of social media. These are societal issues that take place in other roles of media, like T.V, pop culture, and even in our own schools and communities. Yes, there is an opportunity for social media to have a negative impact on children, but that’s with anything… and that’s where digital citizenship comes in.
In our debate, we talked about importance of instilling digital citizenship, or digital leadership as George Couros says, in the lives of children and teens… and yes, even adults. As we dove more into the concept of social media being used to create a positive digital footprint, it reminded me of a wonderful conversation that I had with Jennifer Casa-Todd on the EdTech Endeavours podcast called: “Looking at Social Media Through a Different Lens”. As the author of Social Leadia and Raising Digital Leaders, and the host of the Social Leadia Podcast, she believes in the power of using social media for empowerment, positivity, and change. Here are some of the important points she made in the interview:
- “We know that students are using social media in greater and greater numbers, and yet our ability or our use of it in schools in positive ways are very, very limited.”
- “As educators, we really need to take a look at school media with a different lens. How is it that we can empower our kids to learn from one another, with each other, and how can we validate those experiences. How can we become a little bit more open in the kinds of authentic tasks we are asking our kids to do.”
- “With younger kids, there are some incredible opportunities right now. There are artists, and painters, and zoos… you name it. And they’re on Facebook, and they’re on Instagram… How do we capitalize on these real, authentic, and meaningful experiences and along the way help mentor our kids in terms of the use of those tools.”
- “I want to show other kids that the way they’re using social media, not that it’s wrong, but solely for entertainment is not the only way.”
In a post that she wrote called “10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers How To Use Social Media”, she says “parents, kids, community, and schools need to work together to show kids there is potential beyond entertainment and that they can create intentional and positive digital identities.” This is crucial in the discussion of social media in childhood. As educators, we need to encourage the positive use of social media, rather than take it away completely and deem it as negative. I love how ISTE talks about the Five Digital Citizen Competencies when creating positive digital identities. When kids are given authentic experiences to develop and grow in their digital skills in order to be inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced, and alert, that’s when social media makes a difference in the lives of children. During the debate, Amy said that “social media gives you a platform to be heard, celebrated, and accepted”… and that’s what gives me hope and encouragement for the use of social media in childhood. To echo the words of Daina… “if used purposefully, meaningfully, and with good intentions, social media is CHANGING what childhood looks like”… not ruining it. When we promote positive digital identities with kids by allowing them to engage in the authentic use of social media, we can see that rather than social media ruining childhood, it has the potential to change it for the better.