On Tuesday night we were treated to another great debate which featured Laurie and Christina facing off against Amy and Dean in a battle to convince our class that Social Media is or isn't ruining childhood. As has been the case each week, I was blown away by the awesome opening videos as well as the thought-provoking points and counter-points delivered by both teams throughout the course of the evening. Well done both sides! At the onset of the night, I'll admit that I was definitely leaning more to the Disagree side of the statement "Social Media is Ruining Childhood", and voted such in our pre-vote. As a "tech enthusiast" and Connected Educator in my school division, I have had my fair share of experience with utilizing Social Media for both personal and professional use, even going so far as to lead a Twitter Book Chat with Trevor last summer on Jennifer Casa-Todd's Social LEADia. In my role as a Grade 7/8 teacher, I've certainly witnessed the negative impact that social media can have on my students, but at the same time, I also have just as many (if not more) examples of positive experiences my students have had with it. As a result, Laurie and Christina certainly had their work cut out for them if they were hoping for me to change my mind on this issue
While in past posts I typically start with the "agree" side, I figured I would switch things up this week and explore the top three points from Amy and Dean that really resonated with me. They did a great job presenting their points in a way that connected their audience to the issue through story-telling and human connection.
1) Social Media Unites Others.
When thinking about this issue before the debate, this was one of the main points that came to mind when thinking about the positives of social media. It definitely has the potential (when used appropriately) to unite people together. Some examples are ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Batkid, more current, the Black Lives Matter Movement. While the hashtag #blacklivesmatter was overwhelmed on Tuesday, it has been a vital source for the spread of information and uniting others in protesting against racism and police brutality.
As Amy and Dean also pointed out in their example of Connor, a High School student who started Instagram account to say positive things about his classmates, social media truly has the potential to spread kindness and goodness in our world. Although this platform could easily be used to tear others down, it was used to build others up, which really demonstrates the power of education in social media. Social media is just a platform, which makes me wonder if Digital Citizenship (or a lack thereof) could be the real culprit behind the negative experiences with social media.
2) Social Media Allows People to Connect.
This point is also an important one, and probably more relevant now than it ever was due to the CoVid Pandemic. As Nancy highlighted in her segment, in times like this pandemic, kids could feel completely isolated and alone during their quarantine, however social media has allowed them to stay connected with another and maintain these important relationships. Amy also provided a very interesting stat regarding teens in today's world vs. the past: "Teens feel less isolated and have become more socially adept than past generations".
3) Bullying and Body Image Issues.
One of the major points that anyone would have regarding the negative aspects of social media would certainly be Cyberbullying and Body Image Issues. As Trevor pointed out in our discussion period, the overconsumption of Instagram as well as the various filters available could potentially be causing body image issues among the younger generation. While this is certainly a great point (and could very well be true), Amy expertly countered this point by explaining that body image issues (and bullying) have always been around - whether it was magazines, movies or TV shows, past generations experienced this - social media just happens to be the newest one.
Now that we've explored the defence of social media, it's time flashback to the very beginning of the debate and reviews the excellent stance that Laurie and Christina had. First of all, I would like to commend them on another very well done video, as I felt they did an excellent job of setting the tone and presenting key information through their creative "Fairy Tale" style video. As I mentioned earlier, at the start of the debate I was definitely leaning away from their side, however, they did make some strong arguments that really had me questioning where I sat on this issue. A few of the key points that really stuck out to me were:
1. Social Media can Take a Toll on Mental Health.
I'm glad this was something that was mentioned, as I have wondered about this with my own students. As was mentioned by Christina, social media use can cause an "increase in depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and suicide in teens". This is certainly an alarming fact, and with the increase in childhood anxiety, I do wonder if there is a correlation between it and social media. It was also mentioned that social media can lead to an addiction, not to the device itself, but to the access to each other and the image of themselves, which can often be chalked up to the very real FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). They also made a great point linking social media use to body image issues due to the relatively easy access to social media and the validation many teens seek from the number of "likes" they get.
2. Social Media Lends Itself to Cyberbullying.
As was defined in the video, Cyberbullying can be classified as "Repeatedly sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful or mean content about someone which may cause embarrassment or humiliation". While an argument can be (and was) made that bullying has always been around, cyberbullying definitely takes it to a whole new level. With most cyberbullying occurring on some form of social media, victims are exposed to "attacks" anywhere, as opposed to the past when victims were able to get some form of relief when they went home or were away from others. It could also be argued that social media makes bullying easier because teenagers are able to "remove themselves emotionally", which makes it far easier to say hurtful things from behind a keyboard that they may not necessarily have said to their victims in person.
3. There are Definite Safety Concerns Surrounding Social Media.
This point also stuck out to me, as it's also something that I've experienced in my role as a classroom teacher due to the fact that many issues that take place outside of school, often filter back into the classroom. As Laurie and Christina explained due to the development of children's brains and the way they're wired, children are far more likely to act on impulse. I don't think anyone would disagree with this statement after looking at their own class, their own children, or heck, even themselves when they were younger! With this in mind, kids (specifically teenagers) are far more likely to succumb to outside pressure to share things they normally wouldn't, or participate in the alarming viral "challenges: that are meant to harm them - Tide Pod Challenge, Salt and Ice Challenge, Penny Challenge, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, I was definitely on "Team Disagree" at the start of this debate as I've witnessed the positive attributes of social media in my classroom. However, Laurie and Christina also raised some good points that caused me to challenge the views that I previously held, as it seemed like many of the points I agreed with which supported social media, were expertly countered. This has led much reflection on the issue of social media and children, and while I haven't completely sided with them, they did a good enough job, that I am somewhere in the middle now and there are certainly cases that would support both sides of this debate. At the end of the day, I don't think social media can be "good or bad" - it's just a tool. I believe the more powerful idea at play is the importance of education and digital citizenship. I would bet that a large number of negative experiences with social media could be attributed to a lack of education or understanding. With increased effort and emphasis on this by educators and parents alike, I wonder what impact that would have on this issue?