Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

It was our turn. This topic was one that my partner Christina and I were looking forward to debating! I have held debates with middle years students but this was the first time that I personally have taken part. I thoroughly enjoyed the process from researching and reading many articles, to creating our video, and presenting to the class. My take aways from the technical side of things:

  1. WeVideo – we used it to create our video and again I am so impressed. We were able to use the group feature which allowed us to collaborate and create the video together. The only downfall is that you both cannot be in the video at the same time. I see many uses for this in a classroom with students.
  2. Don’t meet deadlines early – posting our articles to the document a few hours before the debate allowed our opponents Dean and Amy to look over what we shared and use the points against us. Great job!
  3. The support – while this was a new format for me, Christina and I were a great team and were ready to take on Dean and Amy. I also was so impressed with the support from all of our classmates. I know it has been said many times about how amazing this community is, but it is so true. Everyone’s support made the experience that much better!

Christina and I dove into the agree side and worked to present an extreme view. We had fun gathering photos from our “perfect fairy-tale” childhoods and decided that showing the evil villain that social media is was a great way to demonstrate this extreme view.

While the approach we took was light-hearted , the information we focused on was any but. We honestly could have made a 30 minute video with everything we read about, however it was important to highlight some of the biggest issues we felt supported our claim which included mental health, cyberbullying, and the safety risks. There is a lot of information out there about the negative side of social media. Adults who don’t use social media or don’t understand it are quick to latch on to the negativity and without knowing more will ban their children from ever using it. The word ban came up quite a bit in our debate. That is not something I believe in. I can’t think of a time that banning something achieved the results people were looking for. Nor was it in the topic we were debating.

Daina’s statement during the discussion was powerful – what do we consider as childhood? In my opinion that puts everything in perspective. Teens will use social media and they should. It is a part of life and there are many positives (which I will discuss later on). Children, not so much. But what age is too young? Social media platforms have guidelines for ages which is due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also known as COPPA. Yet there are claims of many social media platforms utilizing persuasive design, specifically designing their apps for behavioral change by using motivation, ability, and triggers. When we have children under the age of 13 using social media we are setting them up to be impacted by the issues we discussed in our video.

I know part of my beliefs and opinion have been influenced by discussions with my sister. She is currently working in an ICE Unit in Northwest Territories. She and I have had many, many discussions about this topic. I realize that she sees the worst of society and works tirelessly for protecting children and I am so grateful that she and so many others take on this position. But, it’s important to know that the exploitation of the past which was the unknown creepy predator lurking on the internet is not the only exploitation that exists. In fact, one of the most common forms is self/peer exploitation which includes the sharing of nude photos amongst peer groups. She does not believe in banning social media rather the message she shares with me and with her community is education and awareness.

That fits in perfectly with Christina and I said in our video and our statements. I believe parents and teachers hold a great amount of responsibility. Teens spend time learning in a classroom about how to drive and car and then actually drive it with an adult beside them guiding, suggesting, and teaching. We need to do the same thing with social media. It shouldn’t be as simple as, the “be safe on the internet talk” and then sign up for an account. Adults need to be there guiding, suggesting, and teaching as things come up. Should all of that responsibility fall on teachers? I don’t think so. We definitely need to incorporate digital citizenship into our subjects regardless if it appears in curricula or not. Social media is a part of our students’ lives. We need to help prepare them for what they will face and experience.

Dean and Amy gave a compelling argument for the disagree side. I enjoyed their news broadcast and found the interviews with classmates were a great touch!

Their argument for why social media is not ruining childhood included the points that it allows users to build connections with others, it can be used for creativity, and gives them a platform to promote their voices. I agree with everything they said. Social media does provide those things. It has broadened our world and provides us access to people and places we might not have otherwise been able to reach. I remember the first time one of my tweets was liked by the other of the book I had tweeted about. I thought it was super cool that she acknowledged what I had to say.

The article that Dean and Amy shared, 10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers How to use Social Media by Jennifer Casa-Todd disputes many of the claims we made. Her message is loud and clear, we need to teach students how to use social media. The points she makes are valid and the importance of teaching students about social media is one I agree with. If all of the adults in a child’s life taught them about social media and the points Casa-Todd makes in her article maybe we wouldn’t be faced with some of the negative points Christina and I brought up. Amanda recently was able to interview Jennifer Casa-Todd for her podcast. Check it out as they discuss some great points. See Amanda’s blog for more information and check out her podcast here.

Thanks again to Christina for being a wonderful partner and to Dean and Amy for being tough opponents! I enjoyed examining this topic through the debate process and all the points that were made provided me with thoughts to reflect on.

So where do I end on this topic? I am happy to say strongly in the middle. To quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power there must also come great responsibility”. Social media provides us with an audience. What can be done with that audience has the potential to be powerful or the potential to be harmful. We as adults need to be aware and educate our youth so that the outcome is a positive one.


2 thoughts on “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

  1. Daina Seymour June 7, 2020 / 8:11 pm

    Great summary and reflection on your debate. Both groups did a great job and I completely understand your point about posting your articles too early for your opponents to get a glimpse of. We were stalking the Weekly Plans prior to ours as well to try to get an edge on our competition…we all know how that worked out for us…hahaha.
    As for your points, I agree, banning social media is not the solution. Much like your sister said, education and awareness are the keys. However, it is up to more than just teachers, in my opinion. Having said that, we have a large part in it. As I type this up, an idea that just popped into my head was the concept of having students lead the charge in educating each other. This could be a extra-curricular type of group, much like a GSA, who could present to classrooms throughout the school to help raise awareness. Activities could be developed, poster making contests, etc to help educate. Thoughts?


    • Laurie June 8, 2020 / 9:10 pm

      Thanks Daina! I fully agree that education and awareness should not just fall on the shoulders of teachers. I like your idea of an extra curricular group. As we know not all teachers are aware or comfortable with digital citizenship so maybe those of us who are can start leading the change!


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