Is social media the new online childhood?

Debate #6 proved to be very successful and one of my favorites. The topic focused on whether or not social media is ruining childhood. I found this topic to be very stimulating as I can admit to spending a fair bit of time on Social Media, specifically using Twitter and Facebook in order to build my PLN and to stay connected with my family and friends. In my life, social media has been a helpful tool and as a teacher, I have learned how to use it responsibly. However, this is not the reality that currently exists among many of our students who are using social media. Now a days, children are learning how to use social media at a very young age. Perhaps too young? Although social media has become a part of our society, I’m sure we can all agree that Digital Citizenship readiness is essential before using social media.

Both the Agree and Disagree Teams presented valuable information which made the debate process exciting yet challenging. Personally, I found my-self struggling to “pick” a side. The Agree team (Amy, Logan and Carter) informed us about how parents within today’s society are worried that their children might be growing up too quickly due to spending an increasing amount of time on social media. Children are developing unhealthy habits by being unable to disconnect it, such as participating in less physical activities, unhealthy snacking, and not getting enough sleep. Furthermore, negative exposure to social media can affect children’s mental health. Individuals subjected to Cyber-Bullying may develop mental health issues: anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. Teachers and parents are also worried about how children are missing out on basic communication skills and the human experience of what it means to form relationships due to focusing all of their time and efforts towards using social media. Therefore, face to face interaction is eliminated as face to screen interaction takes over.

The Disagree Team (Ellen and Elizabeth) reminded many of us that times have changed since we were young, and so has our society. Although it may be difficult to shift our current thoughts about technology and social media, we need to evolve and adapt if we are to move past the culture of fear that currently exists. Perhaps social media is not a bad thing, some of us are just not used to it. Social media does have the potential to enhance children’s childhood as it offers a sense of belonging and support. Making friends is not always an easy experience for children. In fact, for some, it can be quite scary. Children are less lonely when they are able to join social connections created by social media and it provides them with the outlets they need in order to feel support. Social media can add enjoyment to children’s lives as they can showcase their work and receive compliments for their creativity. But most importantly, social media allows children to become more aware of the world which they currently live in.

Within today’s society, children are growing up with social media and this is out of our control. We cannot continue to compare today’s childhood to ours because they are so different. For instance, when I was a child, technology was very basic. I grew up using dial-up internet, a computer with separate parts (keyboard, mouse, monitor, modem, and tower), and TV’s with the big box attached to the back of them. Therefore, we are left in the situation where we can evolve and accept new technology and social media with its pros and cons or continue to reject it. Many parents use social media today, so why should be prevent children from using it? The major issues involving social media are children’s safety, their awareness of being responsible for creating their own digital footprints and online reputation, and learning how to become successful digital citizens. Teachers and parents need to teach children about how to use social media properly and model the process. We cannot hide from the risks involved, but we can prepare children for how to handle them. Although teachers are not responsible for how their students are using social media outside of school, we can begin to teach students about digital citizenship at an early age and prepare them for the many types of social media that exists and model how to share carefully.

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3 thoughts on “Is social media the new online childhood?

  1. Nice summary, Roxanne! I think you bring out the main important point in this debate: the idea of safety. Of course we want to protect our kids from any danger or harm that can come to them! But like you mention, the only way to do that really is to educate them about online responsibility and digital citizenship. No more hiding away from things that may potentially harm us! If that were the case, I am sure I would have never left my house when I was a kid. Of course, I always appreciate a throwback to how we grew up, with dial-up internet and wonderful 13 inch tube TVs. It is definitely different now, but we need to evolve with this change instead of ignore it. Thanks for the great post!

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  2. I don’t know whether the debate asks the most important question… but it’s a very good one. Your summary gives me a few ideas and an engaging talk to prod the thinking of my online students (I teach in-service courses to support the use of educational technologies in Ontario). Thanks for the summary!

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  3. Great post Roxanne! I agree that digital citizenship readiness is essential before using social media. People need to understand that their posts, photos, and comments are permanent and it creates there digital footprint. I think you made a great point about children’s safety being a major issue with social media. As teachers we do not know if they are being educated about digital citizenship at home so we need to make sure we are teaching our students to provide them with essential tools to build their positive digital footprint. Great summary of this debate topic!

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