Social Media and Kids: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Social media is ruining childhood: Agree or Disagree

Yet again, another great debate topic.

There is no question that social media use has become a part of and for many the center of almost every adolescent’s life. The topic of social media is similar to all of the other topics covered in that it can be debated with the pros and cons of how it is impacting students lives either negatively or positively. Once again both sides this week did a phenomenal job of laying out the risks to our youth who are using social media as well as the benefits of using social media.

 According to the article The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families, “Using social media websites is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents.”Adolescents no doubt will be ready to jump into social media use before their parents are ready for them to take that next leap. As parents and teachers, we truly need to understand the dangers associated with social media and what our roles and responsibilities are as adults to keep them safe after we have provided children access and permission to use these sites. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this debate!

The Cons:

 Social media was not designed for them: Although adolescents are drawn to social media because it allows them to communicate, be social and learn new skills social media sites were not designed for the use of young children. The article Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids shares that middle school children’s frontal cortex of their brain is not fully developed making them unable to deal with the distractions of social media as well as the temptations that come with social media.

“While you start teaching responsible use of tech now, know that you will not be able to teach the maturity that social media requires.” – Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids

 As teachers and parents, we need to look into the terms and conditions of social media sites to ensure that our students are ready to be using these sites effectively. Team agree shared the statistic that 50% of children between the ages of 10 and 12 years of age have a social media profile. Considering the majority of social media sites require students to be the age of 13 in order to have their own profile this statistic shows that parents are not taking these age limits seriously. This decision can have huge repercussions in that children will be using these sites inappropriately until they are older and able to make the age-appropriate decisions to use social media properly. This, in turn, can damage a child’s digital footprint in that everything online is permanent and if they are not mature enough to make decisions these decisions can damage their reputation for years to come.

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Cyberbullying: words do hurt: The article Teen Cyberbullying and Social Media Use on the Rise shares that “Cyberbullying occurs when individuals use technology to write aggressive, embarrassing, or hateful messages to/about peers in order to intimidate, harass shame, and control.” With social media allowing students to be in constant communication with one another anywhere at any time, it allows for more communication to happen than ever before. Social media also allows children to communicate online rather than in person. This site also shares that cyberbullies often feel that it is easier to get away with bullying online because it is not a face to face interaction.

cyberbullying is quite common, can occur to any young person online, and can cause profound psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and, tragically, suicide       -The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolecents and Families

There are many detrimental outcomes that can happen due to cyberbullying. The lines between students online lives and their real lives are becoming more blurred all the time and cyberbullying most definitely has an impact on their personal lives. Many studies share that students become depressed, sad and worried about going to school because of the bullying that happens online. Team agree shared that there is a link between cyberbullying and students having low self esteem. The most terrifying statistic for parents and teachers is the statistics that link cyberbullying and teen suicide rates. Statistics show that 1 in 4 students who have been bullied online have contemplated suicide before. These statistics are alarming and show just how serious the repercussions of negative social media use can have on kids.

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‘Facebook Depression’: Social media sites allow children and teens to follow and connect with many friends online. Being connected online is an important part of many teens lives. Although this connection can be satisfying for teens it also can be intense and trigger negative emotions within teens. With the connection online increasing the number of ‘friends’ teens have, teens are known to fall into what Nichols calls  ‘social comparison’ in the article How to Avoid Facebook Induced Depression. Social comparison is the act of being online and negatively comparing themselves to their many friends online. They become envious of what others are posting online and cannot understand that their friends ‘virtual identity’ may not be a true representation of their friend’s lives. They begin to compare themselves to that virtual identity that is not realistic. Because of this constant comparison teens begin to slip into  ‘Facebook depression’ which The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families states puts them at  ” risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for “help” that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors”. As parents and teachers, we need to be educated on and watching for the signs of depression caused by social media use in teenagers. It is important that students are educated about the risks of using social media and the negative impacts that it can have on their mental health.

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Team agree did a great job of identifying the risks involved with children who engage in social media. I feel that there are many risks to young children who engage in social media. As listed above social media was not made for children and by allowing children who are under the terms and conditions suggested age on social media apps can be very dangerous. Parents often feel that social media is harmless but they need to truly understand the risks and impacts that it can have on their children. It is crucial that parents and teachers are familiar with these apps and are constantly monitoring of their children’s interactions online. These risks need to be taken very seriously to ensure that children are safe and that their mental health isn’t put at risk.

Although there are risks with teens using social media there are always many reasons why social media when used appropriately and safely can be productive and useful for teens.

The Pros: 

Social Media allows them to do good: Social media allows students to have their voices heard. It gives them a platform in which they can connect with others and advocate for causes that they are passionate about and want to get involved in. Social media allows them to become empowered and allows them to get involved and stand up for things that they believe in. Student-led campaigns can be very powerful in that they inspire others and help work towards making a change. It is important for teachers to show students and demonstrate how social media can be used in a positive and productive manner. Campaigns such as the #Iammybeautiful campaign, or the #neveragain campaign were started by passionate teens who successfully spread awareness about causes near and dear to teens lives. It allows teens to take their feelings and have an outlet to turn these feelings into positive actions. Social media gives students an outlet to reach millions of people who are interested in the same causes and allows them to collaborate and be a part of raising awareness and making positive change. This is extremely powerful!

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Allows them to connect with others and strengthen their own identity: Social media has the power to allow teens to connect with others from all over the world. This provides students who may feel alone or isolated an outlet to be social and meet others who can encourage and inspire them. In the article, 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media Knorr shares that students who feel isolated “report feeling less isolated and have actually become more socially adept, partly due to an increase in technology use.” It allows them to meet people who share their same ideas and values, in turn, helps them to strengthen their own identity. Students can gain acceptance from others who understand them and are interested in similar subjects and hobbies as them. This is powerful for students as it allows them to be themselves and find acceptance and support in these online communities.

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Enhanced Learning Opportunities: Social media is a great aid in helping enhance learning opportunities. It allows students to learn from and connect with others outside of their immediate classroom. Technology allows students to move beyond their geographical location and allows them to reach all around the globe for collaboration. Students can reach out via social media to learn from and connect with experts, authors, and professionals on any given topic. Social media also allows students to connect with others in their classrooms to work and collaborate on projects and learning opportunities. Social media provides students with an audience that extends their purpose and pushes them to share their learning with others. Social media also allows students to start a dialogue about topics with other students and professionals. The use of hashtags can bring like-minded people together where everyone can collaborate and communicate about topics they are passionate and knowledgeable about. Social media most definitely breaks down boundaries and provides unique learning opportunities for students.

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My personal opinions:

Do I think Social Media is ruining childhood? I do not. I do, however, believe that the adults in charge of introducing and monitoring teens and children on social media are allowing social media to negatively impact children’s lives. Here is why:

There are age restrictions on these apps for a reason. I feel that many parents and children ignore these age restrictions and kids are on these apps to early and are not mature enough to make the age-appropriate decisions that they will need to know. Parents need to value that these age restrictions were set for a good reason and comply and set the expectations that their children cannot be on social media before the required age. We do not let students drive a car before they are 16 just because they want to. The reason being is that it is a rule that needs to be followed to keep us all safe. Parents cannot be afraid to delay access to their children until they truly feel that they are mature and ready to act appropriately online. Children’s safety should always be the number one priority and social media requires a level of maturity in order for them to be safe online.

Many parents will admit that they feel they are out of the loop and do not know how to supervise or monitor their children being on social media appropriately. Parents need to do their homework, do their research to learn about all of the apps and how they work so they can fully understand what their children are doing online. It is impossible to set appropriate boundaries if you are unaware of what boundaries need to be set. Parents should follow their children online so they can help coach and monitor what and when they are posting. Parents need to understand the apps so they can set boundaries and can investigate their children’s social media use if they are suspicious of anything unsafe or inappropriate. Children need to understand that parents want to keep them safe online and these boundaries and rules will help do that.

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Parents and teachers need to work together to teach children about social media and how they can positively use it in their lives. There is no question that teens will at some point be on social media so simply ignoring it is not the answer. Teachers can teach students about social media safety by incorporating social media into the classroom in their teaching practices. This allows students to use social media in a safe and monitored environment. Teachers can help students navigate the social media world and teach them how they can begin to build a positive digital footprint. This allows teachers to set expectations as well as coach the students in using these different apps appropriately. This teaches students how they can use social media for education, connecting and collaborating as well as sharing their work and knowledge. Social media can be an extremely powerful tool when used appropriately and monitored by an adult to ensure that students are safe online. I believe that with the guidance of adults as well as positive role models students can successfully navigate social media to use it in positive ways. With all this being said I am all for social media for students once they have reached the required age and have successfully demonstrated that they are aware of the negative and positive impacts that social media can have on their lives. Once again it comes down to setting expectations, monitoring and finding balance!

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Another great debate, another thought-provoking week! Great work teams!

 

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About cdegelman

Grade 3/4 teacher at Douglas Park School in Regina, Saskatchewan
This entry was posted in EC&I 830. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Social Media and Kids: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  1. “May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.” I had a good little giggle while I read that.

    Also, just to add on to your point about beauty campaigns that promote positive social media use- I love the work that the Dove Campaign for real beauty does. They have great resources for teachers that I have used in the past with grade 9 Health classes!

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  2. wileywonders says:

    So many great points. I especially love the point that social media apps are not meant for kids. Typically thesd apps are for people 13 years and older. I think this is why it is important that parents, teachers and kids are educated about the age restrictions and why they might would be good to follow. I think using apps like Seesaw allow younger students an opportunity to practice using a social media type app in a safe and private environment guided by a teacher. We can help students learn to and start creating positive digital footprints.

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