Is social media really ruining childhood? I would say that this is an overblown belief. While certainly we as a society are continually playing catch up with learning how to use social media in a socially appropriate way, we as teachers, do have the tools and curriculum to help make a change in how the perceived negative effects of social media can be greatly overturned.
So much speculation due to lack of experience with the technology, and the combined nostalgia of our own childhoods provide most families and teachers with a negative impression that social media constitutes solely of trolling and hate, without any positive aspects. Much like how murder and scandal make the headlines, as a society we tend to overemphasize and even exaggerate the negative, without thinking of the positives. As you’re likely a teacher reading this, you would agree that teachers making selfless contributions to the community/school don’t make the news.
It is this type of speculation and exaggeration that dominated the debate, with many people in the class weighing in on how terrible social media is, with either personal anecdotes, or to share a story they have heard. What was missing was that, caught up in the fervor of pitchfork raising, we failed to think critically about the positives, and most importantly how we can work towards educating students in how to navigate the turbulent seas of the internet. Social media is here, and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. So, rather than simply getting caught up in how much better life was when we were kids (it probably wasn’t), let’s instead teach children how to use this technology responsibly, in a controlled and monitored fashion, through gradual release.
The agree side of the argument had the tidal wave of fear mongering on their side, and it was easy to be sucked under and pinned down by such examples. I totally agree with the fact that kids today are being subjected to the naked raw experience of the internet, with little in the way to filter out being subjected to anything that can be typed into the Google searchbar. Youtube comments are full of random comments, the majority of them positive, but many of them are negative in nature. The internet has provided everyone a voice in which to share their opinion to the masses, and yes, as a result, we are going to have a lot of people throwing up negative diatribes, or simply using it as a means to troll others. On the other hand, High Tech Dad (yeah, I know, the name of the site is brutal) offers some good reasons why we should encourage children to use social media.
As a parent to a child getting closer and closer to the age where they will have the opportunity to experience the aforementioned ‘horrors’ for themselves, I feel the fear. But, instead of getting stuck in obsessing over the issues, I’d sooner try and find potential solutions to the problem. In thinking about my own son’s future experience, I’m not going to simply allow him to go onto whatever sites he wants. Using the Common Sense Media curriculum, I can easily find direction into how to best monitor and support my child as they make their first clicks online.
As a teacher and a parent, I can also advocate for my school/school board to ensure that a digital citizenship curriculum is being taught from an early age, and not simply a one hour presentation when the students are in Grade 7. If cyberbullying and other related issues are happening, wouldn’t it be better to provide every young child with a comprehensive understanding of how to use the internet wisely, and what to do when put in an uncompromising situation? I would argue that were all students provided this ongoing education, the rates of online bullying would dissipate, as more students would be aware of their rights, and would either know how to document the attacks in order to make a case against the bully, or wouldn’t be as willing to join in on bullying another student.
I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to think this through from the perspective of my own son, as it has strengthened my resolve that this is an important topic not being covered to the extent that it needs to in schools. Much like Treaty Education, if we choose to ignore to teach this curriculum to our students, we are continuing to perpetuate stereotypes and myths, which inevitably will have the ongoing effect of keeping up the status quo, and ignoring the very real problems that are affecting individuals, as well as the greater community/society.
Thankfully I have taken ECI832, and have had the opportunity to disseminate the new digital citizenship curriculum in my school, and I will continue to advocate that this is something that NEEDS to be integrated into the classroom and the schools at large. To not do so will put our students at a serious disadvantage of repeating the same avoidable mistakes over and over again.