Category Archives: debate reflection

Social Media – An Outlet for Our Children

When I began this week, I stood firmly on the agree side when the question was asked, “Is social media ruining childhood?”  Of course, social media is ruining childhood!  How couldn’t it be?  Why do I not see children gathering outside?  Playing hopscotch?  Skipping?  Shooting hoops?  Riding bikes with their friends?  Using their imagination to build forts?  Because, social media controls their lives.

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Click here for 25 things you don’t see anymore; and maybe some nostalgia too!

They no longer need to go find their friends, play these games, or use their imagination the way I did growing up, because they have a device that connects them to their friends, their device has the games, and their device allows them to be creative in other ways.  Is this entirely a bad thing?  No, I don’t think it is.

 

After the debate this week, I had many thoughts on the topic.  I thought both sides of the debate did a fantastic job: Melinda, Allysa and Lori has some excellent points that made me nod my head and solidified my idea that social media is ruining childhood.  They discussed the rise in anxiety, and cyber-bullying online, as well as the pressure kids feel to fit in, and how many of these problems are because children ignore the age restrictions, and parents are left in the dark – oblivious, or conscious of these decisions.

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The disagree side is what started to sway me: Erin, Brooke and Daniel made some strong arguments towards the positives of social media, including the idea that it strengthens children’s relationships, creates a community, and they become more aware than children of past generations.

After both of these arguments, my original ideas were up in the air.  I think the biggest difficulty for me was that I was stuck on the nostalgic idea of what my own childhood was like and that kids today were missing out!  There was so much good before technology took over and I remember creating my own fun in the backyard, riding my bike all over town to meet up with friends, the new addition of MSN to my teenage years, and no social media.  I grew up in the nineties and I am in awe at how fast things changed.  I think I was stuck in the idea that I had the best childhood, so of course social media is ruining now-a-days children’s childhood because they are having such different experiences than I did 20 years ago.

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Once I got past the idea that children today aren’t missing out; their childhood is just different with different opportunities and different challenges.  I think yes, there are a lot of potential risks of over-using social media, and the risk of addiction for teens is very real.  I had a couple of grade nines almost cry when I took their phones away for one day for a health experiment.  Cyber-bullying is also a very real concern, and it is something I deal with daily in a high school setting.  Unfortunately, cyber-bullying is worse than just bullying because it can follow a child home, and follows them every time they log online.  This infograph does an excellent job of explaining just how prominent cyber-bullying is, and the different ways it is visible to teens.

However, as the disagree team pointed out, the online world can also be a great place for community development and support.  When I am teaching about mental health, I always suggest using online resources to find supports if students are struggling but after Monday, it clicked.  Students develop their own communities and support groups online social-media-community-cohesionfor isolation, bullying, gender inequality, racism, etc.  and this is awesome!!  Another point the disagree team made was that students are able to explore their interests and ideas online, making connections to other students all over the world who are like-minded individuals and all of a sudden, they aren’t alone anymore and I think that is fantastic.  Of course, there are risks associated with this idea, like pedophiles profiling and “cat-fishing” young children into meeting up or earning trust to have children partake in risky behavior, however, this is where education is key.  Parents also need to be aware of the behavior of their children and not let them loose online.  Teach them and discuss social media etiquette.

The article, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families had some great tips specifically for pediatricians to help parents talk to their children about social media:

  1. Advise parents to talk to their children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face.
  2. Advise parents to work on their own participation gap in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their youngsters are using.
  3. Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan that involves regular family meetings to discuss online topics and checks of privacy settings and online profiles for inappropriate posts. The emphasis should be on citizenship and healthy behavior and not punitive action, unless truly warranted.
  4. Discuss with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active participation and communication, as opposed to remote monitoring with a “net-nanny” program (software used to monitor the Internet in the absence of parents)

The real goal is to help students develop a positive online identity and understand the consequences of posting risky photos or videos online.  Just because you do something when you are young, means it will follow you online for the rest of your lives.  They need to understand that the things they say and do on social media is permanent and can harm their futures.  I think this is also why, as teachers, we need to teach healthy digital citizenship to children from a young age, so that when they reach adolescence, they are better equipped to navigate this online world.

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On top of this, students are more aware of their country, and the world they live in.  Having instant connection to social media and news, things spread fast and they are on top of it.  Often students are advocating for causes, researching bias of opinion and using social networking sites to trend important issues like #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #prayfordouglas, or even something like #humboldtstrong.  These kids have power at their finger tips, and once they realize it, things could start happening for our future, and our planet.  The Learning Network says, “We’ve become the most tolerant and conscious generation to date, with 76 percent of Gen Zers concerned about humanity’s influence on the Earth and 60 percent hoping the job they choose impacts the world.”  I think a large part of this is due to social media, in creating an open dialogue for a lot of these issues, like climate change, racism, gender equality, political campaigns, mental health awareness, and so many more.  People are able to connect with others online, and start discussions that matter, whereas in the past, we have been limited to the beliefs of the people around us physically.

What-children-need-most-1.jpgI think Melinda had a great point, when she said in her blog, “There needs to be a balance, kids need to be kids and play outside, rough house, interact, etc. They don’t need to have 24/7 screen time, they need to be active and imaginative.”  And to sum up, I think social media can be a great outlet for children, but it is not the only outlet.  Like Melinda said, kids still need to be kids, explore, and develop in the real world, be active and engaged, but I think there are a lot of great things we can expect from this generation as they become more tolerant, and engaged in the issues occurring in our world.

Does Tech Enhance Learning in the Classroom?

To say that technology enhances or does not enhance learning is a complicated question.  We live in the day and age of technology, and as educators, it is our responsibility to teach for the future and that future includes technology.  I think a big part of having technology in the classroom enhances learning.  This year alone, I have found myself relying more and more on it to help my students learn effectively.  For example, with my

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Calculus class, I was relying heavily on Khan Academy to help supplement my students’ learning.  It was my first time teaching it, so there was a lot of “learning together” going on.   I was also using graphing calculators and apps to help my students visualize first, and then internalize what certain graphs look like so when it came time for the big exam in May, they wouldn’t even need to look at a calculator to know the behaviors of certain functions.One of the biggest factors to integrating technology in the classroom that we debated on Monday was cost.  It costs a lot of money to integrate a new set of laptops, or a new program, or a new app.  I’m lucky at Prairie South that we do not have the 1:1 rule that many of the Regina teachers were discussing on Monday.  However, the tech accessibility at Central is limited.  We have three working computer labs, and at this point, they are all

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being used as classrooms for majority of the day so booking into one is nearly impossible!  We also have two sets of chrome books, which are awesome….but slow.  The Wi-Fi is not the most reliable in the school which can render the chrome books almost useless in the hour of time we get to use them.  As a result, I definitely do not use tech in my classroom as frequently as I’d like.

However, I am pro-tech in the classroom as there are so many benefits to using it!  Vawn Himmelsbach at TopHat.com stated these 6 pros to using tech in the classroom:

  • Using technology in the classroom allows you to experiment more in pedagogy and get instant feedback.
  • Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation.
  • There are countless resources for enhancing education and making learning more fun and effective.
  • Technology can automate a lot of your tedious tasks.
  • With technology in the classroom, your students have instant access to fresh information that can supplement their learning experience.
  • We live in a digital world, and technology is a life skill.
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The last one is the most important one to me.  Knowing that my students live in a world of technology, teaching digital citizenship is the crucial to their success in the bigger world.  With so much access to technology, I love teaching my students how to research properly, how to think critically about what they are reading online, and how to search for things effectively.  I encourage them to use sites like Khan Academy (I actually linked it to my Google Classroom this semester, and used their AP Calculus prep course to help my students study for the exam), SparkNotes and No Fear Shakespeare (for when my students miss a reading or just need more help understanding the language) to help enhance their understanding of course content.

My favourite is being able to teach the teenagers in my classroom those important life lessons when it comes to cellphone usage.  We discussed a lot on Monday about appropriate use of cellphones and how to structure it.  I allow cellphones in my classroom, and I often have students working on projects, connecting to my Google Classroom, or reading on their phones.  However, I am not naïve that they are “only” doing school work.  We discussed the idea of multi-tasking and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for students.

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The fact that I teach high school influences my opinion and I believe that they need to learn how to multi-task effectively because as teachers and adults, we are expected to multi-task daily.  Of course, I reprimand students for being on their cellphones while I am delivering a lesson, but when it comes time to their individual work time, I allow them to figure out a balance that works for them.  As long as they are on task most of the time, cellphones are allowed — otherwise, they lose the privilege.  They need to learn for themselves when is the appropriate and inappropriate times for their usage.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “it seems inevitable that some sort of hand-held wireless device will eventually become part of education systems across the country” in the Maclean’s article: Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction, so why not embrace this change?  If we fight it, what are we really doing?  We are hindering our students’ abilities to be able to use their mini-computers in effective ways, rather than as just a social connection tool.  Would you not rather teach students about all the tools and information that is out there and give them access, as well as teach them how to effectively use it to create something big?

Thinking_Face_Emoji_largeStudents learn from teachers more effectively and will remember a story, or an experience much more than something they read once on a device.  So why wouldn’t you want to us this knowledge and power to teach students the “how-to”, the “why”, and teach them to ask questions about the tech world and what they see, and the social do’s and don’ts of society, instead of leaving them to discover it on their own?