Embracing childhood today

17 Jun

This week’s EC&I 830 debate topic focused on whether or not social media is ruining childhood. I haven’t been this solid on my opinion in a debate since the first week’s debate when I fully agreed that technology enhances learning.  I was super excited for this debate, as I wholeheartedly disagree. From Twitter conversations ahead of class, I knew I would be in the minority, and I was eager to participate on team disagree’s side and hopefully sway some opinions.

Via GIPHY

Team agree made up of Melinda, Alyssa, and Lori started the debate off with their opening statement. Decline in mental health, acceptance from peers, cyber bullying and other unhealthy behavior were all points team agree brought up. These are all valid issues that we know are plaguing children and teens today.

Team disagree made up of Erin, Brooke, and Daniel, highlighted major positive aspects of social media in children’s lives which included strengthening relationships, providing support for those who may be struggling or marginalized, encouraging learning, and giving students an opportunity to make a positive impact on the world in their opening statement.

I understand the concern teachers, parents, and society in general has when it comes to social media, technology in general and our children’s mental health. Although social media and smart phones are still relatively new in terms of technology, research is being done on increased mental health issues as well as increased screen time. I often wonder if these are related because of causation or correlation, and if the increasing diagnoses of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health disorders may be due to advancement and knowledge in these areas. As a high school teacher, I see the state of mental health in our teens and schools which alarms me, but I also see amazing action taking place with Bell Let’s Talk, local organization The UnderstandUs, and a general increase in understanding and acceptance. As I see taking care of your mental health becoming a focus in schools through courses and things like Wellness days, I also see an ever-increasing need for a focus on digital health.

Last semester in EC&I 832, I dedicated my major project to learning more about digital health and wellness. What started from a viewpoint similar to team agree’s on all the ways social media (and technology) is harming kids, quickly changed into a more positive outlook as I began reading and learning more about ways it can benefit and can be used for so much good. On a large scale, it’s amazing to see how social media has inspired, and driven movements such as March For Our Lives, but it’s important not to forget on a smaller scale how powerful it can be for isolated or struggling kids to reach out and find a connection somewhere. To know there is someone or a group of people out there who are just like you, can bring hope to someone who has never felt like they fit in.

“When I think of technology, I don’t just see it as a tool. I see it as a way for kids to be seen. For kids to be found. For kids to not be alone. And for adults too. Someone out there values us. Someone out there, who wonders whether they have worth, is waiting for all of us. Technology means we don’t have to be alone anymore.” –Ripp, 2018

All this good, doesn’t mean that bad isn’t happening at the same time. Cyber bullying is real, and prominent in the lives of many. It is harmful and hurtful in many ways, and the anonymity and viral-ness of it is what makes it so challenging. But bullying has always been real, and has always been hurtful, and regardless of what form, it is always going to occur in some manner. Taking social media away from bullies is not going to make them less of a bully. Just as taking phones away from kids is not going to make them less invested in the online world they live in. Rather than focusing on the negatives of social media, or the bullies, I truly believe we need to focus on building our students to be upstanders, and overall outstanding digital citizens.

Rather than just waiting for digital citizenship education and curriculum changes to occur….

waiting

Image found HERE

We need to be proactive as teachers in bringing digital citizenship topics such as digital etiquette and digital health into our classrooms, and have these conversations with our students about social media and technology use. These conversations do not always need to be formal or part of the days lesson plan. When a student asks me to take a phone call during class from their work and I say yes, I use this opportunity to address it with the rest of the class as to why that is okay, and actually a responsible thing to do. We also talk about when might not be okay during class time, and how you can bridge that conversation with your boss when you call back on your break.

Although a small example, this is an important part of how we as teachers can begin to change the culture in schools which is seemingly shifting to banning phones, and hoping parents will teach their kids how to navigate the online world. While some schools are reporting benefits of banning phones, I think by doing this we are missing the boat huge on preparing students to be active participants and citizens in society, as so much of today’s information, communication, and connecting is now done online. As Nathan Jurgenson writes about the IRL fetish, we no longer really have a separate identity, or life, the digital world is the real world. To be our true genuine selves, both online and off, in every interaction, is exactly what we need to be teaching students.

“We may never fully log off, but this in no way implies the loss of the face-to-face, the slow, the analog, the deep introspection, the long walks, or the subtle appreciation of life sans screen. We enjoy all of this more than ever before” – Jurgenson

It is clear our world has changed with the advent of social media. My childhood was vastly different than my parent’s – the time I spent on MSN messenger and playing Mario Party was so strange to them. My adulthood is also vastly different. Although my mom embraces Facebook, my dad and I quote, thinks “Book-Face is the devil”. My student’s childhood is also completely different, and I am trying to prepare them for an adulthood that will be ever-changing as the workforce and society continues to become more connected and social. The only way childhood is being ruined is if we are resistant to letting kids be kids. We must foster and help grow a sense of imagination, the importance of play time, healthy risk-taking, and connection with peers. I believe all of these aspects can be grown both online and offline, and they must be – in order to raise strong, resilient, creative, and inspiring leaders to come in our world today.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Embracing childhood today”

  1. kariik8 June 17, 2018 at 9:42 pm #

    I really appreciate your blog post this week. I am so easily swayed to the team disagree side, that I was hoping to find some really valuable resources to pull me towards team agree. Your work on digital health and welness is really important, and I thank you for sharing your EC&I832 summary of learning. This is my first ed tech class, and so a lot of these topics are new to me. Your video really highlights some benefits of social media and I think I learned more from it than I did from all the reading I did on the topic this week! (Like who knew selfitis was a word!? lol) Anyways, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!

  2. Joe McGurran June 18, 2018 at 2:39 am #

    Nice post here that kind of encapsulates the basis for both sides of this argument. Like you, my work throughout a few of Alec’s Ed Tech courses has helped me moderate what was initially a more extreme position on my part.

    It’s kind of that whole confirmation bias thing, isn’t it. The best of us need to make deliberate efforts to expose ourselves to what other perspectives are seeing and saying. A course like this is the perfect playground to immerse ourselves in a myriad of viewpoints. (especially on a debate topic like this one, where we were evenly split)

  3. jana_wlock June 19, 2018 at 3:11 am #

    I like every single thing you said, and you should be a motivational speaker…

    I love your positive outlook on the benefits of social media and agree with you when you say that we need to stop focusing on the negatives and start encouraging our students to become upstanders and all around good citizens. As Jurgenson argues, social media IS real life for our kids. I think trying to eliminate it or push it to the back burner would be foolish and unrealistic. Like with anything, there will always be those who will use social media inappropriately, but that’s no reason to shy away. Like you said, with all the recent movements on social media, we can no longer deny its positive power and ability to change the world for the better.

  4. esthermaeers June 21, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

    Thanks for your great post Katie! I totally agree with you when you state that we need to guide children in their development both online and offline. The focus needs to be on both that’s for sure! Digital health is a new term for me, thank-you for bringing that into my radar. I am finding out that there is so much to learn about technology and its benefits. When I began this course, I was very skeptical of the use of so much tech in the classroom. After reading, debating and hearing from classmates, I am learning that there are so many ways that technology can actually enhance lives, if used appropriately and intentionally.

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