Oh, how social media has taken over our lives. Well, it’s probably not that dramatic, but whether you like it or not, social media has become a part of almost everyone’s daily life. It’s so important and influential that what you post can follow you around for the rest of your life. It has now become common for us to monitor what we do and don’t post online as it has the potential to influence a potential employer–should they or should they not hire you based on your Instagram?
But it’s not just what you post online that fosters assumptions about you as a person, it’s also about what others post. Specifically, do the things others post online have negative effects on childhood? This was the debate topic, and Lauren and Kylie went head to head.
We begin with the coveted theme song (which, unfortunately, I cannot put into this blog. But trust me, all of us EDTC 400 students adore it), and then move on to the pre-vote. Who had the lead advantage?
Lauren had the upper hand, and she came in strong with her debate video.
Her main four points: 1) Social media damages mental health in youth; 2) Social media is addictive and makes children anti-social, ironically; 3) Social media contributes to digital footprints and privacy concerns, and; 4) Social media facilitates and fuels cyberbullying.
Regarding mental health issues and cyberbullying, suicide rates in teens has risen since 2007, and many believe that social media plays a part in that statistic. Also, a third of middle schoolers have been cyberbullied, and that’s only those who have admitted it happening to them. Personally, I have been cyber bullied before, but that doesn’t mean I was free from blame. Because of social media’s strong sense of anonymity, I too participated in cyberbullying when I was younger. But, admittedly, my experiences with cyberbullying are vague and led to no major repercussions. This is not always the case. When I was in the ninth grade, a popular app Ask FM gained traction in my school. I had tried it and wasn’t a fan, so I stayed away from the site. Other girls in my school, however, decided that they would use Ask FM to target another girl who had moved the year before. They sent her rude messages, essentially attacking her. The girl would block the other girls from my school, but my schoolmates were persistent and would make a new account to continue cyberbullying. We later learned, months later, that the girl who was being cyberbullied had attempted suicide because of the harassment she faced online. Social media can be incredibly dangerous to kids and teens mental health, and we need to acknowledge that.
Also mentioned in both Lauren’s video and the Healthyway article is FOMO–the Fear of Missing Out. Many children experience this. Being on social media constantly allows them to see all the opportunities they are missing, which can lead to feeling unpopular and further damage mental health. I experienced this a lot in school as well. Knowing that my friends would be hanging out all night long while I was never invited made me depressed and disheartened–I didn’t want to go to school or see my friends, I just wanted to be included.
On a funnier note, my girlfriend told me a story also dealing with FOMO. When she was in the eighth grade, Justin Bieber had a concert in Regina. It’s important to note two things: 1) She didn’t even like Justin Bieber or his music, and; 2) I wanted to go to that concert so bad but my mom couldn’t get me tickets, and while I don’t like JB anymore it still kinda bums me out. Regardless, my girlfriend, on the day of the concert, goes to her mother and tells her she has to go to the concert, no ifs ands or buts. She told me that she was hit with a serious case of FOMO and couldn’t handle the thought of everyone in her class but her going to the concert. Miraculously, her mom got tickets (which I can’t even believe because my mom only managed to get one ticket MONTHS before the concert happened and I was too young to go on my own) and she got to see the Biebs. FOMO is a serious issue that, again, can lead a child to feel less popular, and it is potentially harmful to their mental health.
Social media can also make children less social, another topic Lauren highlights. Instead of going outside to play and be interactive, children are more likely to sit inside and play on tablets or phones. The article also mentioned that “we no longer can look out our windows on Christmas day and see children out playing with their new bikes or toys because they have either gotten the newest games console or a brand new iPhone,” and while it is a very good point, I have two things to say.
First, I think we assume that just because a child prefers to use technology to play does not mean it is bad. Our parents used to watch movies with their friends to play, and their parents would say the same about them as our parents say about us being anti-social. I think this idea stems more from a separation of generations than anything else. As humans, we have always utilized new technology to be anti-social. Also, having spent half of my life babysitting, I know that children still love to play outside with their friends. Kids were the ones telling me, the babysitter, that we had to go outside and have a water fight, or go to the park, or play with nerf guns, or play hide-and-go-seek… I can go on and on. Technology has just been another tool for entertainment, and it hasn’t entirely gotten rid of other forms.
Second, what kid is testing a bike on Christmas Day? Isn’t there snow on the ground? How would that work?
Anyway, Lauren made excellent points during her opening statement, so what did Kylie provide?
Her main points: 1) Social media opens doors for children; 2) Social media allows children to take a stand; 3) Social media promotes mental health initiatives, and; 4) Social media is unavoidable.
What does she mean by “open doors”? Well, social media has the ability to allow children to create new content and be creative. I know so many artists who promote their art using social media tools like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt; and those are just the apps I can think of. Not only does it give children the opportunity to promote their art, but it can also inspire children to create art. I used social media to teach myself how to apply makeup, similarly to Kylie. You can use social media to learn a new skill, like a language, or an instrument. Social media has so many opportunities for children that cannot be disputed.
Most importantly, social media can be used to take a stand. Famously, in 2018, Florida students planned a nationwide school walkout through social media, famously known as March For Our Lives. Recently, Instagram was used heavily to promote #StudentsSayNo, a province-wide school walkout in Ontario that happened only yesterday. Using social media, these protests and countless other like #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #TakeAKnee.
A great final point that Kylie made was this: “Children will see more of the good and be prepared for the bad” when exposed to social media with parental supervision. We cannot completely disregard social media, so having parents monitor what their children are seeing can lead to positive changes.
In the end, Kylie pulled out a win. I myself voted alongside Kylie, but just because I did does not mean I don’t think there are issues. This is a very grey area, and it’s hard to pick a side. There is good and bad in both, and so it is our job to make sure that children are aware of that.