This week we looked at whether or not social media is ruining childhood. The debate was really well done by both sides and although I agreed with the statement that it is ruining childhood, after reading some of the blogs this week I don’t know if I truly feel that way. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being really indecisive and sitting on the fence ha ha. Thanks to Jeremy and Amy for making it hard for me to stick to my original stance on the agree side.
Let me start with discussing the agree side which was the side that I was originally leaning towards. There were a few reasons I was leaning more towards this side than the other. The first is the issue with different mental health issues that can be brought on by technology. Stress, sleep deprivation, cyberbullying and depression are all issues that children deal with when using technology and social media. I know what you’re thinking – “these issues existed before technology and social media were around.” And you would be right in saying that. Stress, bullying, sleep deprivation and depression have been around since the beginning of time I’m sure. However, I do believe that technology and social media have played a big role in the intensity of these issues in adolescents. Technology adds to stress because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others through social media.
Stress might come from maintaining a large network of Facebook friends, feeling jealous of their well-documented and well-appointed lives, the demands of replying to text messages, the addictive allure of photos of fantastic crafts on Pinterest, having to keep up with status updates on Twitter, and the “fear of missing out” on activities in the lives of friends and family – Pew Research Center
Bullying has always existed, but recent bullying statistics show that there are more ways to bully someone using technology compared to times when technology didn’t exist. Technology makes bullying a lot harder to escape because it can follow the victim long after they have left. Sleep deprivation caused by increased use of technology and having devices in our rooms can lead to decreased attention span, drowsiness, depression and decreased grades. Social Media Depression may be something that we need to have more open conversations with our children (and even ourselves) about.
I also agree that social media is hurting the development of face to face communication skills in our youth and even adults. It is also difficult to communicate through text because we can easily misinterpret the tone of the message being sent. Take a look at this short video and see if it looks familiar. I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where we have misinterpreted a text or email and have had to clarify what we meant over the phone or face to face. When it comes to communicating face to face 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Body language and tone of voice play a huge role in this and when we communicate using technology those aspects are removed. It can be difficult to communicate face to face if we don’t develop the right skills to do it. In order to better communicate face to face we need time to practice.
The last thing that I have to say about it affecting childhood in a bad way is the false sense of ‘friendship’ they are receiving. Although this study has shown that 52% of students feel social media has helped make their friendships stronger I have to question that. I have to question whether having over 1000+ friends on social media makes students feel like they have a truly strong group of friends or gives them a sense of belongingness and popularity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on social media, studies have shown that out of all the friends you only have 4 close friends from that list. Now when I think about that and think back to my days in high school, I would say that I had a friends list of 30-40 people that I would have considered ‘friends’ but out of those people there were only 3 other girls that I would have considered my best friends. So has social media changed the fact that although we know a lot of people and may call them friends, we really only have a handful of people we can go to to talk about real life or look to for support? I don’t think it has which might be interesting to think about.
I do agree that social media and technology can connect us. It allows us to keep in touch with family and friends (especially the ones who don’t live near us). We can reach out to family and friends and share information with them. I have to admit that although it connects us, I have found that I personally will pick up the phone less and less to call people to catch up. Instead I sift through Facebook waiting for them to update something about their life. Which is completely silly. If I want to know what’s up with them, I should call. But most of the time I don’t. So although it can provide great opportunities to connect us, if you are like me, it has potential to create some distance that doesn’t need to be there.
I really like this article that gives 5 reasons social media might actually be helping your kids. I think discovering new interests and helping with creativity are definitely big pluses. I also agree with this article stating that it gives a sense of belonging and helps them express themselves. It is great that it provides a channel for them to express themselves, but we must teach them to do it in an appropriate way. Just because you can post something publicly and reach a large number of people doesn’t mean you have to throw out common sense or proper manners. We need to be teaching students that social media is a great tool for promoting issues and shedding light on them.
I think there are a lot of things that we can be worrying about when it comes to social media and technology. We do need to be mindful for their mental and physical health. We need to also be aware of the sexualization of young girls through the media as Shannon talked about. But we can’t blame technology for everything. I don’t think that technology is the problem even though my blog leans more towards the agree side. I do believe all the points I discussed but I know that we can use technology in positive ways to prevent those negative issues from becoming big problems. We as parents and teachers need to work with our children to harness the positive aspect of technology. We need to teach our children common sense, morals and manners. I feel like we blame technology because it’s easier to blame technology than to blame ourselves for not speaking up or having discussions with our children. As times change, our parenting needs to change. It’s not technology that needs a time out, we are the ones we need a time out. We need a time out to think about how we can create balance and healthy technology habits for our children so that social media and technology have a positive impact on our lives rather than negative one.