Debate #5- Kids Are Growing Up Too Fast- Is Social Media the Culprit?

When I think about my childhood, I think about my days spent playing outside, taking part in games with friends and family, as well as coming up with some interesting activities to keep ourselves occupied. I think of the words imagination and creativity. But, I also remember that half hour we were allotted to play computer games ( sometimes using dial-up internet if we were lucky). I also remember being 13 and getting my first phone and my very own Facebook account. However, I didn’t have access to social media as much as kids do now. I don’t have kids, but having 27- 10 to 12-year-olds gives me a good idea of how their lives are impacted by social media in 2022. I’m hoping to keep this post a bit more personal with less summarizing, so let’s see how this goes!

I think it’s important to start off with understanding which age do we consider childhood. From reading online and our discussion during the debate, childhood ranges from about 1 to 13 years old. Especially with how fast children nowadays want to grow up, it seems like they are trying to be teenagers at a much younger age. The article ” What Happened to Childhood” by William Doherty explains just how fast kids are trying to grow up. I see how different children are compared to when I was younger. Could social media be the cause? (Should we even be comparing childhoods?)

Agree- Yes, Social Media is Ruining Childhood

Fasiha, Dami, and Gunpreesh introduced this side by talking about some great points. Here are my favourites:

1.Social media is a negative space for children with very few restrictions– As the agree side put it, children are young, wide-eyed, and curious. With very few restrictions (even accounts with age restrictions can be suspicious), kids are able to use social media and look up whatever they want to know. Social media is also a place for cyberbullying and online predators. We also see students trying to be ” influencers” to gain popularity/ compliments which can have a negative impact on their lives. They also have to deal with negative body image and other mental health issues. Dr. Brenna Hicks explains in their video that social media is unfiltered. Kids can see pretty much anything and their brains are not prepared for it. It can lead to a slippery slope of self-destruction. Even though I grew up with a bit of social media in my teens, I always remember talking about Facebook friends and Instagram followers and worrying about the numbers on my profile. Now, I hear my 11-year-old students asking each other how many followers they have on TikTok. I also know many of my students make Youtube videos or watch live streams on Twitch ( which is definitely not age-restricted when it is live).

2.Skills are impacted due to time spent on social media– We spoke a lot about how too much time online has impacted our kids in many areas. Using social media also has a drastic influence on skills kids need to develop at a young age. Starting with social skills, kids that have access to social media spend more time on devices than communicating with other children. Social skills like empathy, conflict resolution, listening, cooperation, and patience have less room to be built when there are less physical connections. I haven’t been teaching for very long to see that difference, but I find kids do not have as much patience and ability to listen in the classroom since they are used to things being done for them at the touch of a button.

3.Childhood is an important time to learn and grow- Now that I’m an adult, I now understand why we should not be wishing to grow up. (Being an adult is not fun. Have you seen those gas prices?!) Your childhood is simply a time to have fun and grow into who you really are. It’s a place where your imagination and creativity develop. You have time to try hobbies, learn new skills, and figure out who you are. Sean Coughlan explains in their article about how kids are kids anymore and that “Children need time to grow and emotionally mature in order to cope with what life throws at them”. This can be difficult when a kid is constantly on social media pretending to be someone they are not or trying to fit into what society deems popular. Kids should not have to worry about this!

Photo by Luna Lovegood on Pexels.com

Disagree-No, Social Media is not Ruining Childhood

Jennifer, Shivali, and Mike were able to argue the other side of this debate with a great video. Here is what stood out to me!

1.Connections can be made on social media– We need to take a moment to think about the kids who don’t have many friends nearby, who don’t have family to talk to, and are perhaps misunderstood or lonely. Social media allows those kids to find friends with common interests which reduces isolation and loneliness. Social media allows for kids who don’t quite fit in to find people going through the same matters as them to have someone to talk to. I grew up in a small town and it’s easy to say that the friends you had might have only been your friends because… that’s the only people that were around. With social media, kids can find real connections. I also really liked the topic about kids now having a voice due to technology that they might not have the chance to use offline.

2.Impacts online are the same offline– There have always been bullies. There have always been predators. There have always been magazines and movies that gave us a negative body image. There have always been influencers. Just like we teach kids at a young age lessons about being kind, sharing, and not caring what others think, grown ups still have to teach these concepts. We simply must adjust to the digital age and teach kids about digital citizenship and media literacy. For example, teaching kids to be kind online, how to be safe and report bullies, checking sources, and teaching about mental health. It’s the same as it was when you were younger, but different. ( As it should be since our childhood are not the same).

3. Access to new information and using what we have in the 20th century– With social media, kids can learn beyond what is physically available to them. Think about kids who are figuring out who they are. Who do they like? Why do they feel a certain way? What if they don’t feel comfortable talking to someone they know? They can find answers to questions they have, along with support groups. Social media gives kids access to podcasts, videos, blogs, forums, and pictures which allows them to learn new information and answer questions they don’t want to ask in person.

Final Thoughts

At the beginning of this debate, I agreed that social media was ruining childhood. What changed my mind was the discussions we had about our evolving society. Why do we keep comparing our childhood to the childhood our kids have now? We spoke about how parents today have more boundaries set to be safe and they seem to overschedule children. Parents make kids take their phones with them so they can be in touch. It’s not a bad thing, but we need to get out of the mindset that their childhood isn’t at good as ours because of technology. Childhood can still be childhood, even with technology! As Randi Zuckerberg explains: “No matter what technological innovations come about, no matter how many screens we can swipe, there are also some things about childhood that will never, ever change. And I’m perfectly ok with that, too “. I have so many students ( age 10-12) that don’t bring phones to school, that show their imagination and creativity, and are not addicted to technology. If we teach kids how to use technology properly and for parents to actually be parents and set boundaries, social media will not ruin childhood.

  • Do you compare your childhood with your kids/students?

3 thoughts on “Debate #5- Kids Are Growing Up Too Fast- Is Social Media the Culprit?

  1. Hi Megan. I also voted in agreement to the statement at first and then changed my vote. Part of the reason was that I began to realize that although social media does have the potential to harm our children, it also has the potential to help depending on how it is used. Which is also what I argued in my debate. This is why the role of education is so important. There were so many good analogies made during the discussion comparing real life skills and the digital skills required to navigate social media that reinforce that. However both teams made some very good points, and both had compelling arguments. It was a close one for me on this. These debates are always so hard to decide on!

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  2. Hi Megan, I too had a similar childhood as you and was introduced to cellphones and social media at the same age. During the pre-vote, I felt very torn about my thoughts and clicked agree. However, by the end of the presentation, I felt myself shift to the disagree side. You mentioned how important boundaries are I think that can be said for everything with kids! Kids thrive on a bedtime schedule and we instantly see the effects when we don’t stick to routines. Social media is less obvious, but if we treated the boundaries around it as strickly as people do with the bedtime, we might see some of the less harmful outcomes that social media is often tied with.

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  3. Great Post Megan! As someone who grew up in a small town I too was reflecting on how social media allows students to make connections (especially for those kiddos who may not fit in). I was lucky I actually got along well with the limited kids my age but I remember many students who weren’t so lucky. Would their childood have been different if they grew up in a social media age?

    I think we all compare our childhood experiences with our children or students without even thinking about it. I think with some rules and limits we can find a balance between screen/non-screen time for our children and families. My own kids use social media but they also play sports and spend a lot of time outside. It’s okay that there childhood doesn’t look the same as mine.

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