We Need Balance – How Social Media Affects Childhood

In this episode of The Great Ed Tech Debate, Laurie and Christina took on Dean and Amy in arguing the contentious topic:  “Is social media ruining childhood?”  The pre-vote was a 60-40 split that yes indeed, social media was ruining childhood, or at least the nostalgic childhood we remembered. 

My family in the good-old days – Pre-Social Media

I think a big part of this topic comes down to how people interpret “childhood” and “social media”.  Our open discussion revealed that many people (me included) associated the word childhood with students under a certain age; for some it was under 13 and others it was under 10.  I am the mom of 3 girls, 20, 18, and 15.  Our first daughter wasn’t allowed a cell phone and social media until she was 15, the second daughter got hers when she was 14 and the third, we relented when she was 13.  The second interpretation required to inform our decision was, what constitutes social media?  For many of us we were thinking social media encompassed apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok, but didn’t consider things like Facetime, Youtube, or social platforms like zoom.  Nancy cleared it up with the definition of social media being a public platform where people can communicate by connecting though technology in numerous ways (verbal, through pictures, comments, likes, et cetera). 

The pro-side, Laurie and Christina were quick to point out the “evil enemy” of social media using powerful discourse depicting social media as a “prowling” menace that “rips” and “robs” children of the innocence that is childhood.  Their stance showed the many dangers of social media and the addiction, peer pressure, and stress it can put on a child’s mental well-being. 

The con-side, Dean and Amy were witty with “Da Fake News” and defended social media claiming it is being framed as a villain when in actuality these dangers and pressures have always been facing children, social media is just a new platform where these “evils” find a way to surface.  Teaching children to deal with these situations online is what is important.  Dean and Amy also drew on the expertise of others my sharing “Nancy’s Notions” where Nancy contended how important social media has been for her own child, especially during this time of isolation.  I have to say I loved the product placement of books, such as “Social LEADia”.  It was also highlighted how social media gives a platform to many young people who would otherwise be marginalized; they now have the ability to have representation.

To be honest, I think that social media isn’t needed for young children, but yet, just last night, I watched as my 15 year-old daughter face-timed with her 5 year-old cousin about Minecraft.  They played together online and my heart warmed.  I often worry about the addictive properties of social media, but banning it all together isn’t the answer.  Also who can resist a picture with Gran using a cute Snapchat filter? 

I can’ imagine Gran thought she would see the day technology could do this!

Is social media the cause of these bad things or is just a medium that is being used?  It’s not going anywhere, so we best find a way to educate our students and ourselves so we can outweigh the negatives with the positive influence social media can have.  It’s all about balance!

4 thoughts on “We Need Balance – How Social Media Affects Childhood

  1. Hi Sherrie,
    Great blog post, and I love all of the family pictures that you have included. I think that there is a very large question of when should children first get a cellphone, which is why I posed the question in the week 5 debate. To me, I think that children should first get a cellphone when they are participating in activities after school (so around grade 6). In saying this, I think that a smartphone is not necessarily the correct choice at that young of an age, since children would have the access to social media. At the end of the day, it is the parents decision on when their child will get a cellphone. But it is also important for the parent to have those conversations with their kids about digital citizenship, and what the cellphone should be used for.

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    • Thanks Skyler. The debates seem to lead into one another. Our community has a K-5 elementary school and a 6-12 high school and that transition to Grade 6 does seem to be when most kids are getting their first taste of independence and cell phone privileges. Parents do need to set up parameters and educate their children about digital citizenship but often kids are given the new “toy” and don’t have the instruction of how to use it. (More on this topic in my blog about your debate!) 🤓

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  2. Great response Sherrie, thank you for sharing your personal stories! I find it interesting how the age of your changed for when they were allowed cell phones/social media. Do you think that this trend will continue to get younger, and younger? I imagine so. In the end, I believe you are exactly correct in saying that it is important to educate ourselves and our students. Social media is here to stay.

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    • Social Media is here to stay that’s for sure. I do think this trend is getting younger. In our community we see lots of kids come across the lawn with a new cell phone, it’s like a rite of passage. I, personally think that it is important to follow to the age guidelines suggested by social media apps, which for many is 13. There is also a difference between independent use and facilitated/monitored use of social media.

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