Social media is CHANGING childhood, not ruining it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the debate that occurred today between Dean/Amy and Christina/Laurie on the topic of whether or not social media is ruining childhood. As Christina and Laurie highlighted, our childhoods looked a lot different than what children are experiencing now. However, this doesn’t mean it is bad. The biggest difference is obviously technology. As both sides pointed out, there are positives as well as negatives to using social media. These are:

Pros (Taken from Smart Social)

  1. Young people can feel empowered to teach older relatives to use technology
  2. It can be used to create a positive digital footprint
  3. It provides parents an opportunity for open communication
  4. It helps students learn essential job skills
  5. It can lead to more communication, connection, and creativity
  6. You can use it to form or join (support) groups that may not be represented locally
  7. It offers students a way to stay connected
  8. It promotes students’ civic engagement
  9. It spreads social awareness and kindness
  10. It offers students a way to stay in touch with friends if they move
  11. You can learn new things

Cons (Take from Roots of Action)

  1. It lacks an emotional connection when communicating with others
  2. It gives people a license to be hurtful
  3. It decreases face-to-face conversation skills
  4. It conveys an inauthentic expression of feelings with the use of emojis and abbreviations (LOL, SMH, OMG, etc)
  5. It diminishes understanding and thoughtfulness through the lack of quality conversations
  6. It causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected
  7. It facilitates laziness
  8. It creates a skewed self-image
  9. It reduces family closeness
  10. It causes distractions

Upon further research, the impact it has on mental health, as Christina and Laurie highlighted, was explained really well in Bailey Parnell‘s TEDxRyersonU talk titled Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?

She identifies the top four stressors of social media.

  1. Highlight Reel
    • a collection of the best and brightest moments in someone’s life that they post
    • this causes oneself to compare our behind the scenes life with others’ shining moments for which we inadvertently scrutinize and question ourselves
  2. Social Currency
    • what we use to attribute value to ourselves in the form of likes, comments, and shares
    • this means we put ourselves on the market as a product and base our worth on the value or social currency we get from others
  3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
    • social anxiety caused by the fear of missing potential connections, events, or opportunities
    • this causes addiction and reliance on social media, taking us away from the present company
  4. Online Harassment
    • constant scrutiny by trolls or others you may know that feeds into a negative self-image
    • micro-moments of online harassment needs to be monitored and not go unchecked because over time it becomes a macro problem with potentially severe consequences.

However, Parnell identifies four steps one can take to media wellness.

Step 1 – Recognize the problem
Step 2 – Audit your social media diet
Step 3 – Create a better online experience
Step 4 – Model good behaviour

I can understand how as adults we can use these steps to edit our social media habits in order to improve our mental health, but what about our students? At what age do we expect them to understand how to mute, block, ignore, and properly respond/react to the negative messages on social media in order to reimagine, redefine, educate others, create positive experiences, and take action in both an online and offline platform. Really, both platforms require similar approaches and I don’t feel it’s necessary to separate the two in this context.

Jennifer Casa-Todd has a response to this question I posed in her article 10 Reasons Why we should start showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media. Adolescence is the ideal time to:

  • teach the appropriate use of technology because they are “able to reflect on their own thinking, and are able to observe how they learn and develop strategies to improve their learning, as well as when planning and impulse control is developing”
  • help navigate the online space and use it positively with open, healthy dialogue
  • connect them to organizations, causes, authors and learning opportunities based on their interests
  • have conversations about the media and the techniques they use
  • teach them their online world is an extension of their offline world and that “every person has the power to give another person great joy by sending positive and complimentary messages online as well as in-person”
  • talk about balance and accountability and being a good model of this
  • identify when it’s appropriate to respond in person, on the phone, or in a text

Essentially, it all comes down to digital citizenship. If students aren’t made aware of the etiquette that comes along with having an online presence, they may easily get wrapped up in the negative aspects that are available to swallow them up. Once again, you can’t give them a car and expect them to know how to drive. They need to know what speed to go in different situations. They need support to steer themselves in the right direction. They need help to avoid obstacles to stay on the road.

But who is responsible to teach our youth when not everyone has the knowledge and skills to do so, parents and teachers included? We are quick to point fingers and place blame, but have you thought about how you can help as a teacher, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or friend?

All in all, as most of our debates have gone, if used purposefully, meaningfully, and with good intentions, social media is CHANGING what childhood looks like. When students aren’t given the proper skills to navigate the digital world, this is when it can ruin childhood. Jacquie mentioned that experiences on social media, although not all positive, allows us to make teachable moments from the negative and learn from them. However, this needs to be done in partnership with our students and demonstrated by our own actions. There needs to be a balance, education, and limits to social media activities for both adults and kids which also need to be regularly reflected on. Even though lots of things that are happening in the world have been happening for years, such as bullying, shaming, racism, etc., social media is making these worldwide concerns more visible. The skills to address them should not change no matter the media for which we are exposed to them.

How you plan to assist students with steering clear of the negative and finding the positive in social media to help shape their childhood?

15 thoughts on “Social media is CHANGING childhood, not ruining it.

  1. You had me at the title of this blog post Daina! Social media and technology are changing what our lives were like, and how childhood looks too.

    You ask THE question, who is responsible to teach our youth? And I think your answer that it is up to us ALL is the right approach. It takes a village afterall 🙂
    But I especially liked the stance you took about needing to work together with students AND demonstrate through our own example. This is something I strive for as a parent to a teen so it really resonated with me.

    Finally, your point about the need for balance, education and limits for ALL will help us learn to better manage how we integrate this in our lives.

    Thanks for your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nancy! The village mentality is needed for many of the concerns that we are facing in society. It is also going to take time and will likely look different than what we have experienced in our past. There are going to be some highs and lows to the process of change, but flexibility, collaboration, and consistency will hopefully reign over. I can only imagine what the next technology concern will be as we move forward.


      • Thank you for sharing the Bailey Parnell video. Parnell says “social media is neither good nor bad” which I think really encapsulates the divide people had in voting for the debate last night. I agree that we have to collaborate as an educational community to make the good outweigh the bad. The “aha” moment I had was when Parnell said “Abstinence is no longer an option.” I realize that I have been resisting social media not only in my personal life, but also in my professional life. It is time for me to harness its power for good and use my influence as an educator (and a mom) to catch up with society. Thanks for sharing.


      • I agree with your ‘aha’ moment about abstinence. I still struggle with the fear that I’ll become addicted and reliant on the highlight reel, social currency, and FOMO aspect of social media; ignorance is sometimes bliss. However, my 9-year-old and 11-year-old are entering the world of social media and I’m trying to dive in with them to understand how it is used and why it is used. I need to model good behaviour and be able to support them through their experiences and have them support me through mine (I have some moments, for sure). It’s empowering for them to be able to help me figure out how to send a Snap (for which I still don’t fully understand), but my vulnerability and naivety is a good thing to show them. A friend of mine has taken the road of abstinence with her son, and I think this is detrimental as this creates a social divide for him amongst his peers. My mantra is to learn along with them and build trust in order to support them if and when they need it. Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go! Thank goodness for classes like these!


  2. Daina, what a powerful and insightful post that points out both sides articulately. What really struck me was the questions you asked that gives space and place for parents, teachers and all members using social media (students and adults) to critically look at how social media and technology influences them. One part that really resonated with me was “I can understand how as adults we can use these steps to edit our social media habits in order to improve our mental health, but what about our students? At what age do we expect them to understand how to mute, block, ignore, and properly respond/react to the negative messages on social media in order to re-imagine, redefine, educate others, create positive experiences, and take action in both an online and offline platform.”. You speak about the paradox this situation creates. That question shows the challenges AND the opportunities to name for oneself how, when and why we use social media and the impact it has on us. It also shows the potential with “re-imagining, redefining and educating” but also the moments where we need to be conscious of the boundaries so that we are aware of the impact on our personal, our children and our students mental health, social comparison and overall well-being. The balancing act between access and responsible viewing/posting and also asking the incredibly important question of when students have the maturity to be able to do this is something that I will consider moving forward both personally and professionally. Great questions, amazing observations, fantastic post!


    • Thanks for your feedback on my post. My husband had mentioned to me tonight that he found that I’m really invested in this class compared to others and I feel this is due to the debate aspect of the topics we are discussing and the fact that there is no correct answer. This allows us to personally reflect in order to know how we can improve ourselves and our actions with regard to these controversial topics. These are sometimes difficult conversations to have, but by being honest with ourselves and each other, we can start to cultivate a positive plan within our teaching and parenting practices that will hopefully catch fire and inspire others.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great post wise one! I really liked the Ted talk video you shared! A lot of great points that really got me thinking. I agree it takes a village to navigate through the social media world and to educate everyone on the proper uses of the technology we have access to. I also appreciated that you shared the seven points about what to teach adolescence when it comes to social media especially using healthy dialogue and the techniques media uses.


    • Thank goodness for awesome classmates to share these wonderful resources that I highlighted for your enjoyment. In all seriousness though, these debate topics really bring to light the differing opinions that are usually well supported and force you to reflect on your teaching and parenting philosophy and pedagogy. I can’t wait to hear about when you teach Parker how to navigate social media at the tender age of 5…I mean 15, yes 15.


  4. Pingback: Debate #4: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood? | Curtis Bourassa

  5. Great post. You really do an amazing job of capturing the essence of this debate. The word change (like Nancy you had me at ‘hello’ with this) is crucial to this debate. The change is upon us, but we still have the ability to change the narrative on this topic. One thing I think is we forget to mention is that many of the negative conditions that are tied to social media existed before but now these issues are amplified – there is tremendous a opportunity to help students create positive ways to express and understand their world instead of suppressing it, ‘sucking it up’, or finding other ways to channel the negative energy. It will take a team effort to create a positive and productive environment. Just like many other issue education is crucial to being a part of the solution. It ‘aint’ going away so let’s harness this medium for good. I agree with you about the debates – I find myself sharing what we are talking about with my family, friends, and anyone else that will listen haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Is social media ruining childhood? | Trevor Kerr

  7. I have to agree with Dean, you do such a great job capturing the essence of ALL the debates. I loved the title of your blog as well as I agree whole -heartedly that Social Media is CHANGING childhood, not ruining it. That is a powerful statement. I agree that it takes a village to raise a child and Social Media is one of those ways. There is so many opportunities for children to use Social Media in a positive way. As parents and educators, we need to take the facilitator role to model appropriate use of technology, keeping a balance with the real world and be aware of the etiquette that does come along in the digital world and like you stated that all comes down to digital citizenship! Great perspective and again, such a great voice in your blogs.


  8. Pingback: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

  9. I agree completely with your post, Daina! Social media is not ruining childhood, it is just changing what childhood looks like. Alec brought up a great point in the discussion that childhood has been changing over the past few decades. In the past, childhood only lasted until the age of 13. After that, children started to work. Compare that to the 13 year old student today who has not even hit high school yet. Childhood has expanded over the years. Due to the advances in technology, we are experiencing a shift to a digital era, where children need to be up to date on the technological advances in order to get ahead in the world. It is the responsibilities of educators to teach students how to have digital citizenship with the ever-changing world.


  10. Pingback: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood? – Christina Patterson

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