Media has been historically shown to influence attitudes, behaviors and knowledge of children. Peer influence as measured by social media likes and dislikes can become a strong stimulus for unhealthy behavior in children! Kids are looking for attention and are succeeding by sharing attention seeking posts featuring risky behavior; done for social acceptance.
Erin, Brooke and Daniel debated for the, ‘disagree’ side, while Melinda, Allysa and I debated for the ‘agree’ side. After hearing the ‘disagree’ side of arguments, I have to say that I still side with the ‘agree’ side. Social media (SM) is a great risk to young children, so in that respect, it is ruining childhood!
Recently a survey showed 20% of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves, called ‘Sexting’! If information is shared without consent, it is prosecuted under the criminal code of Canada (Bill C-13). If a child posts a provocative picture, again, consequences can be life-long.
It’s been scientifically proven that children have an under-developed pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that moderates social behavior and decision-making. Social media was not designed for children!
Risk taking behaviors such as the ‘tide-pod challenge’ or ‘blue whale game’ are truly frightening!
My fourteen year old son thought that the tide-pod challenge was a safe thing to do because he ‘saw it on YouTube’. Thank goodness I was able to talk to him about it before he actually tried it! Whew! My son used to watch another YouTube channel that featured kids microwaving various objects to destroy them. Again, I was able to catch my son before he did any damage, but what about other kids?
The collective, continuing record of a person’s web activity is called a, ‘digital footprint’. Risks of improper social media use include privacy violations as well as possible sharing of too much information, or posting false information about themselves or others. This could include joining social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook before the age of 13. If abused, children’s digital footprints may be forever damaged.
Kids always think that bad things won’t happen to them such as their information being misused, or, ‘what goes online stays online’ if posting risky pictures or information/ bad comments. Internet misuse may make children targets for fraudsters, cyberbullying, or pedophiles.
Most of the points raised by the, ‘disagree’ debate team was in reference to social media use by teens. However, teens may be better able to navigate the internet as well as have better sense of what not to post when compared to young children. That is why there are minimum age requirements for SM sites such as Facebook in the first place.
Daniel commented that ‘I did stupid things as a kid and I didn’t have social media’. I’d like to say that first of all, thank goodness we didn’t have social media, or I’d still be forced to relive those crazy things I did as a kid! And perhaps those things would be detrimental to my professional career! Secondly, I feel that my team’s argument was not that social media ‘causes’ stupid behavior, rather it ‘potentiates’ risky behavior that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
When I was a kid, my world consisted of my neighborhood and family, now, kids exist alongside the whole world as observers! While this can be positive for learning, I don’t agree that SM improves childhood life experiences. Technology may assist with learning and teaching children, but social media doesn’t benefit young children. SM may be a benefit for older pre-teens and teens, but that population can use self-control and exhibit mature decision making abilities.
As educators, we need to inform young children as to SM dangers, and encourage healthier forms of entertainment, such as playing outside at the neighborhood park. Social media amplifies some of the effects on young people’s natural tendency to risk taking, fueled by notions fame or instant popularity. Permanent negative digital footprints are being developed as a result of posting risky information.