If you had asked me this question before class last Monday night, my answer would have been that I absolutely think that social media is ruining childhood. Children are spending way too much time on devices these days. According to the article, Teen Cyberbullying and Social Media Use on the Rise, "80% of teens use a smart phone regularly, 92% of teens report going online at least once a day, and 56% go online several times a day." That is a lot of screen time that provides a lot of opportunity for our children to misuse the many new apps and social media platforms within their reach. Some of these mismanaged scenarios include sexting, cyberbullying, participating in dangerous trends, and the constant need for gratification from others. Cyberbullying is defined on PREVNet as the following:
Cyberbullying and social media has many serious repercussions for our youth. I may even be as bold to say that it affects our mental state in negative ways too as adults. The Dangers of Social Media on Your Mental Health states that social media can cause mental health problems and addiction. Symptoms to be aware of include low or decreased self-esteem during or after using social media, negatively comparing yourself to others via social media content, repetively focusing on your own shortcomings, frequently feeling envious of others while engaged with social media, decrease in ability to concentrate, increased or unusual social anxiety when interacting with people offline, and feeling a need to share everything you're doing offline on social media, The rest of the list of symptoms can be found in the document. I'm sure we've all witnessed first hand other adults getting harassed on social media platforms. Technology has evolved so much in our lifetime and we ourselves as adults are trying to become more literate when it comes to social media. If we are experiencing these kinds of online situations and concerns, imagine what our children are dealing with!
According to the article from Rawhide, 41% of teens say that cyberbullying has made them feel depressed and helpless and 26% of teens said that it made them feel completely alone. This has led to an increase in depression which leads our youth on the path of other issues and suicide. According to healthychildren.org, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Suicide rates for teens have grown According to The Annual Bullying Survery 2017, 1 in 4 cyberbullied teens consider suicide and the Cyberbullying Infographic states that 1 in 10 cyberbullied teens attempt suicide.
Now you're probably asking why our youth isn't talking about this or asking for help aren't you? From the data that Rawhide shared in their article, 32% of teens didn't report it because they felt ashamed, 40% were scared that parents would get involved, and 36% were afraid of what parents might do when they found out about it. Now, there were some brave enough to tell someone what was happening to them. 90% of those youth who did report cyberbullying told a teacher or a family and 77% told a trusted friend.
Melinda, Allysa, and Lori (team agree) shared a lot of important statistics and educational information with us in their presentation and I applaud them for that! They definitely made a very strong argument.
After all of the statistics and information I have shared in this post, are you left wondering how in the world my mind changed about this topic?
Like any other type of object or idea that causes issues for our youth in society - alcohol, drugs, driving, sex - we've learned to teach our children how to make better decisions and try to openly discuss the risks of such activities. On the first day of driver's education I learned that I had a very high risk of dying in an accident. Did that stop me from learning how to drive? No! Do students still participate in partying and sex? Of course they do. Instead of "scaring" them into being sober and abstinent, we need to educate them about the risks and what they should be doing to stay safe in these situations. Like these other issues, technology and social media are not going away. Therefore, I am left with looking at this situation with a glass that's half empty or a glass that's half full. I would rather look at it from a perspective of social media being a positive opportunity for our society.
Erin, Brooke, and Daniel (team disagree) shared some excellent resources that share tips about how social media helps with mental health, how our children can use social media for good, and about how these social platforms can aid our youth to influence positive change for our world.
First off, we need to teach our children how to use social media appropriately. This ties in with my previous posts about creating a positive digital footprint. Our children need to know that once they post anything - whether it be positive or negative - that it cannot be deleted from the internet universe. Creating this strong foundation will aid in successful use of social media.
Some platforms allow people to participate in safe conversations about their mental health and personal well-being. The article How Social Media Helps Teens Cope with Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Harm, shares a variety of technological tools that teens are using to connect with others who can encourage them, mentor them, inspire them, and show them that they are not all alone. Youtube is one of the tools a lot of creators (myself included) use to share personal experiences and offer strategies or suggestions to help with personal stresses and struggles. Tumblr has been used to connect with each other about personal topics such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. There are even anonymous counseling and crisis intervention sites such as 7 Cups of Tea andIMAlive that can be accessed at anytime to help guide those struggling to long-term support options when needed. BoosterBuddy is an app created as a type of game to help support children and teens dealing with anxiety and depression. With all of these tools out there to help people have difficult conversations and share strategies to cope with the challenges they may be having, it sounds like social media does in fact seem to be offering a positive opportunity for these individuals to thrive.
Students are also using social media for good! They use it to share resources, gather data, collaborate with peers from around the world, participate in group work, communicate with teachers, to research career paths, meet mentors and experts, showcase their work, and create digital portfolios. All of these scenarios help a teen create a positive digital footprint and shows them how to be a good digital citizen.
Social media even has the power to help our teens to become advocates for social change! The students from a high school in Florida this year started the movement #neveragain after their school sadly went through the traumatic incident of a school shooting. These students have used the power of social media to start the tough conversation about gun laws in the United States. There are even specific retailers who are supporting this movement and refusing to sell certain guns to the public. Learning to use these networks for social change can lead our youth to become the adult generation that will come up with hashtags that create a huge impact like the following movements:
Technology isn't going anywhere. It's going to continue to grow and change and evolve. I choose to teach my students how to use social media to do good. I choose to embrace what social media has to offer our youth and our future. Do you?