As someone who was born in the middle of the 90’s, I am able to remember a time where social media held a very minor spot in my life. My first memory of any type of technology was watching VHS tapes on a huge box television and playing Nintendo 64 . We didn’t have a computer until the early 2000’s and even then, dial up internet was such a chore that we barely used it in our household. A bagged cellphone in our vehicle was the first type of “portable” phone we used and we still had a landline for many years to come.
At the peak of my childhood, DVDs, cellphones, and high speed internet became more common. I remember using MSN Messenger to chat with my friends after school and we even had a room known as “the computer room”. However, social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram still weren’t of much importance to me. My first cellphone at 13 was an LG slide that included a full keyboard, a sad camera, and no touch screen. It didn’t even have internet and was only used to text and call. When I signed up for Facebook at 14, I remember only using it to like many pages and to post various statuses about being bored. I never grew up with social media as a pinnacle part of my daily life and this is why I believe I have had very few negative effects in my life due to this type of platform.
Heading into high school and receiving my first BlackBerry, I did find myself becoming more involved with social media. It wasn’t until 12th grade and University that I started using it more often. Even then, I didn’t download Instagram until my 2nd year of University. With that being said, I didn’t have to handle the unrealistic expectations we now experience on various social apps like Instagram and Tik Tok that kids nowadays are seeing when scrolling. Personally, I would pinpoint that the way social media is distracting is the biggest negative effect I have had so far. I find myself checking my phone whenever I have a break, scrolling at night instead of sleeping, and losing many hours of productivity. However, social media has also has some positive effects in my personal life. Being able to connect with friends and family more easily when living away from home has been very helpful for my mental health. I also believe that having easier access to information found on sites like Twitter has led me to be more aware of events happening in the world. I was also able to start my Master’s Degree during the pandemic due to the accessibility of technology and social media platforms like Zoom.
Since my career has given me the ability to work with many children, I am able to see how social media affects kids who were born in this era of advanced technology. They have access to many positive and negative aspects. I teach middle school so some kids don’t have a phone yet, but some already bring their iPhone to school and tell me they use many social media apps. In my school, students cannot be on social media at any given time but it is easy to see the anxiety in children due to only seeing “perfect” people on their phones, as well as having to deal with cyberbullying. Also, kids are exposed to news and information which can be rewarding if taught and dealt with correctly. However, at times, that is not the case and can cause too much exposure at a young age.
I have never taught without the means of technology so I have always known to be professional online. It can be difficult knowing parents can easily find your Facebook or students will try and add you on Instagram but it is known by every teacher to keep this private. Of course, technology has helped the education system enormously with access to computers, information, and easier contact with parents. More specifically, social media and technology has helped children and teachers during this pandemic with remote learning. I have spent at least 6 months of my career teaching online and I am lucky to have been able to continue my job. I also hope to use social media more to benefit my students and their education by being able to connect and learn from other students and teachers in the world.
I find myself being grateful that my childhood was at the beginning of the rise of social media and that it was not a huge part of those precious years. I do believe there are advantages and disadvantages to social media nowadays, but teaching children how to use it correctly is a very important skill that needs to be learned. Technology and social media has helped me in my personal life and in my professional career with minor setbacks. As social media changes, it is important to keep growing with it to improve and learn how to use this advantageous but sometimes dangerous platform correctly.