Childhood Through the Technological Age

Debate topic: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I have given this topic a lot of thought since becoming interested in educational technology. The agree team was comprised of Logan Petlak, Amy Scuka, and Carter Davis who made some compelling arguments that social media is harming children.

The agree team argued social media negatively affects children’s mental health. Students are consumed by online spaces where their peers continuously post highlights of their life.  Children’s exposure to technology is leading to poorer sleep quality, which impacts their physical and mental health. I don’t know about any other teachers out there, but when I am severely overtired it ain’t pretty for anyone.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to social media use since “social media rewards persistent refreshing — that’s how it’s built, and I doubt that reward system will change any time soon. If you’re already a bored insomniac, it’s tempting to stay stuck in a ‘checking’ loop, because it’s something to do.” I know the last thing I do before I go to bed is check my phone for text messages and what’s new on “the Twitter.” Children have access to technology at young ages and I worry that sleep deprivation will hinder their ability to focus in school.

However, I do not believe social media is “ruining childhood” because of sleep deprivation. Hell, child-rearing practices in the middle ages involved kids receiving harsh beatings regularly and instilling complete obedience through physical and psychological maltreatment. The definition of childhood is always changing and, while we need to be critical of what kids (and people in general) are doing, we should not compare it to our past experiences as children and say one is better than the other.

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Simply saying “back in the good ol’ days when blah blah blahjsdfjdgaojajg” allows people to shift responsibility and not teach children skills that are needed right now. I also realllllly hope they aren’t referencing the middle ages when they say “back in the good ol’ days.”  Does social media allow for bullying to become more prevalent at home? Absolutely. Is social media sabotaging real communications? Maybe, but I personally don’t agree with this (I am skeptical any time an article uses the word “dicey” in it).

One way I do think social media is jeopardizing childhood is due to the exposure kids have to unrealistic beauty standards 24/7. Women’s ideal body types have changed throughout history:

This generation is no exception. However, we have never had a society where children are (1) exposed to so many advertisements with beauty standards which are (2) literally only achievable with photo-altering programs. Now programs are allowing children to alter their appearance instantly with Snapchat. Justine Stephanson demonstrates how much these filters can change your appearance on her recent blog post. Shouldn’t we be teaching children to stop pursuing these unattainable beauty standards rather than fulfilling people’s desire to alter their appearance?  Danielle argues the “internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when [she] was a child.”

I think she may have a point. The CBC documentary “Sext Up Kids” describes girls who are learning how to sexualize themselves at a very young age. Therefore, girls being sexual and objectified by society is normalized and expected from society– a terrifying thought.

Despite my rant about the negatives of social media, I still don’t think it is ruining childhood. The disagree team (Ellen Lague and Elizabeth Therrien) provided good arguments that social media can provide a lot of benefits to students; I have seen a few of my students gain genuine support from people on these platforms.  In fact, students have become more vocal in class because they feel more supported in expressing themselves. I have mentioned the various benefits for students using social media and open education in previous blog posts but….

Basically what it comes down to (for me) is this:

  1. Social media can cause harm to children, both physically and mentally. We need to educate students about it.
  2. Social media can provide a lot of benefits to children and give them amazing opportunities. We need to show how it can empower students.
  3. It’s not going anywhere. Lets talk about it.
  • Koskie Out!

 

2 thoughts on “Childhood Through the Technological Age

  1. I have yet to watch “Sext Up Kids” but your post has convinced me to check it out. It’s shocking the magnitude of “beauty ads” that young children are exposed to, especially young girls. I think this is an important aspect of social media use that we need to be cognizant of. Young children are consumers of so much media, and although I agree that social media isn’t ruining childhood, it is definitely influencing beliefs about body image and beauty.

    • Yes I encourage you to watch the documentary “Sext Up Kids.” My husband watched it along with me when I was taking EC&I832 and it was a very eye opening documentary. Great post Katherine! I agree that social media is not ruining childhood, but we need to make sure we educate our students about digital citizenship, body image, and having a positive self-esteem. I think if children or teens are not educated about those kinds of topics then in some cases posts or pictures could potentially negatively affect a person’s childhood. Also thanks for the shout out in your post! :)

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