Category Archives: body language

Social Media & Childhood – Smooth Sailing or the Perfect Storm

Attempted my first podcast version of my blog:

 

Are you ready for this week’s bus trip?  Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

girl-1328416_960_720Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.

Is it ruining childhood?
                  That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.

Is social media childhood?
                  It’s certainty part of it is…

I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…

“I know what it’s like to be a kid”

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Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

… he reminded us we don’t.  Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay.  For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.

In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember commodore-528139_960_720the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments.   Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up.  It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility.
(Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)

Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night.  Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.

Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected?  Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream.  Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media.  It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well.  After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.

As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.

seaside-1149687_960_720   ocean-926261_960_720
Images from Unsplash & Stocksnap @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory.  Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much).  Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.

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Image from geralt @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.

In “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Derpivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say” George Bowden wrote about the risks of social media use by children.  There are many sharks in the waters for our children to face.  If they want to be connected for FOMO (fear of missing out), they are going to go out in a boat that’s ill equipped to support them during stormy times.  Bowden in fact warned of how ” a potent mix of cyberbullying, increased anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation are increasingly linked to mental illness in children.”

shark-892669_960_720Image from shahart @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media.  In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect.  The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention.  It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy.  Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner.  No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in.  The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.

In a Social Life, Kerith Lemon questioned whether or not our online life is “a carefully curated brand.

While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live.  It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)

Susan Tardanico emphasized,

“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.”

So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction?  It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course.  How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others.  In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.

Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark?  Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships.  Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)

So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet.  For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web.  Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?

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Image from geralt @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms.  It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook.  To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.

The power of amplification.

What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale.  Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.

Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,

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Screenshot from Twitter

why not retweet things that can change our world.  As Bowden  quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”

And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children.  So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes from them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.


Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

The Unhealthy habit? Are you aware of the choices you are making?

Tuesday also featured a lively debate on whether or not Technology is making our kids unhealthy…… is it making you unhealthy?

While Fitbits, health apps and Facebook groups may inspire us to build healthy habits, foster social connections and remind us to get moving, I can’t help but wonder just how much technology is affecting our lives.  Have you ever stopped to think how it’s shaping our daily habits and interactions?

Photographer, Eric Pickersgill, “has released a series of photos from everyday life with one minor adjustment: all electronic devices have been removed.” (Denicola, 2015, para. 3).
(You can view the series online at www.removed.social – it’s worth taking a look.  Is this how you want to be remembered?  What’s happening to our face to face connections?)

I remember back to when I first started teaching in the fall of 1999 – cell phones, digital cameras and social media were not part of my daily habits.  The internet was alive and healthy in it’s information delivery form with interactive sharing restricted to the users that understood html, ftp and flash.  When I looked around my classroom the most distracting form of peer to peer interaction was whispering or the paper notes they quietly passed from one desk to another.  And when you ventured out into the halls at break or lunch, students were sitting next to each other talking.
25158194552_3a76a8b81cFlash forward to 2016 and when you walk down the halls of a school you will likely see students in close proximity to their cell phones.  Just think of how the mobile phone has evolved  – from the advent of texting to the immediacy of information – to students sitting next to one another staring at their phones and texting each other instead of talking.  Just to clarify this is not always the norm and I have to admit, you won’t find me far from my cell phone – it’s an integral part of how I document the interactions and stay connected to all of my schools no matter where I am in the pod. In fact, as a self admitted introvert, a device is a unique tool that connects me to selected social media connections when I want and in person it gives me a way to blend in.  Check out Why introverts love Social Media by Mack Collier for an interesting read especially for “Online extrovert[s], offline introvert[s]- it’s complicated.”

Photo Credit: BarnImages.com via Compfight cc

So we know technology has changed our lives, so much so that our brains even pick up on phantom vibrations. When’s the last time you thought your cell phone buzzed?  Did you need to check it?

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As Hatch (2011) noted while referencing Sherry Turkle, “naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue. “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad — they’re powerful…. I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children” (Hatch, 2011, p.4). It’s the daily habits and the way we choose to engage with technology that leaves room for our own creative interpretation – addictive or balanced.  It seems to be a common theme  – the search for Balance – using the tools around us, tech included, to help us lead a healthier life. Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfightcc

Facebook, Twitter or mobile devices for that matter don’t hurt people, it’s people that make choices on how they use the technology that truly impacts ourselves and others.

Just for a moment let’s agree that technology has the potential to connect us to many positive interactions and healthy choices in our lives. Now let’s pause and reflect on just how those devices have already shaped our lives and those of our children, so we can make informed choices not just rote, device guided interactions.
2977041097_920b2b3001Photo Credit: edmittance via Compfight cc

In the video, 5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now, Asap Science noted how increased device usage and instant feedback are decreasing the white matter in our brains and in fact rewiring our brains to crave that stimulation. In a 2014 Huff Post article, Lindsay Holmes explained “there is such a thing as technology addiction … [and] research from Swansea and Milan Universities also found that heavy Internet users suffered withdrawal similar to those experienced  by drug users when they went offline” (p.4).

Now if you’re like me you are probably saying, for sure that’s true but that’s definitely not me.  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal, noted that gaming up to 21 hours a week resulted in positive benefits. Over that and the positive benefits of gaming were lost. Everything has a balance. We need to listen to our own bodies and find ways to use tech to enhance rather than in inhibit our health.51ohurxogil-_sx327_bo1204203200_

If you haven’t listened to one of Jane McGonigal’s TED Talks or checked out her book Super Better, I would highly recommend it.  As she shared it’s a revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient all powered by the science of games (it’s on the cover). It’s significantly changed my perspective on how applying the psychology of gaming can positively change our lives by building up our physical, social, mental and emotional resilience. She addressed the need for balance and shares the science behind it – in fact there’s an entire website devoted to the science behind the Super Better game.  That’s right it’s also a game – you can play.  There are so many educational applications here that it needs it’s own post,         Image from Amazon.ca
but here’s what I will say.  My daughter and I are using the strategies and I’ve recommended them to teachers to help deal with all things from behavior to learning how to read.

Holmes also identified eye strain, headaches and reduced sleep as fallout from spending extended time with our beloved devices; moreover, she highlighted staring at our phones changes our posture adding to the health costs.

23172149944_d29d8b52201During the past year I’ve been working with Carla Gradin, a body language trainer and wardrobe stylist (also a former high school math teacher). During our training sessions, she’s shared how first impressions take less than 2-3 seconds to form a lasting perspective and how power posing can change your brain chemistry. But what’s really interesting is how technology, in particular, staring at your phone closes your body language.  Just think about it, you look down at your device, your shoulders roll in and your eyes are focused on the cyber world.  What impression are you giving to those around you and how is your body position influencing your brain.

Photo Credit: FotoGrazio via Compfight cc

Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on how your body language shapes who you are.  How you position your body affects the hormones released in your body.  So maybe think twice before you pull out that cell phone at your next gathering.

One of my favourite parts of my online graduate classes is learning from the stories of my fellow students and each week I’m amazed at how much I learn from everyone’s perspectives.  Life truly is about perspective.  This week Nicole’s post the Pursuit of Health in a Modern World, resonated with me.  Our health is dependent upon the choices that we make and the practices that we as teachers and parents model for our children. It’s about choosing to actively find balance.  I appreciate Nicole’s description of life with a conscious decision to choose when tech adds value.  She shared…

We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. – Nicole

And so as my daughter fell asleep watching Netflix on the couch while I worked on this post I understand first hand the challenges and advantages of parenting in our device connected world.  While I know life is about consciously making healthy choices, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  We are surrounded by technology that has the potential to heal or harm depending how we use it.  What I hope you take from this post is an awareness of how technology influences our health and as Oprah shared (in the video below) it’s about asking ourselves, “What’s the next right move?”  and then the next right move.  Find your balance and enjoy the journey along the way:)


Interesting Articles I encountered while writing this blog post: