Is Social media ruining childhood?
The safety of our children online, has been a hot topic since the beginning of online time. With technology advancing and the right to access the internet being declared a right by the United Nations, it is becoming more and more obvious that the question should not be whether social media is ruining childhood, but rather what can be done to ensure that social media does not ruin childhood.
Over the past decade, the increase in use of social media has created a variety of issues for our children. Some of these issues include but are not limited to: cyberbullying, loss of face to face communication, physical and mental health issues, the permanence and lasting effects of digital footprints, and the reality that internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when I was a child.
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While I do agree that social media is having a negative impact on our children these days, I think that it is important to recognize that with technology becoming an ever more present factor in daily life, we must find ways to alter how we coexhist with social media so that it is not something that is ruining our childhood, but rather acting as an enhancing factor in the daily lives of all. I could not agree more with Kelsie Lenihan’s comments stating that “we cannot expect children to remain in the past when they represent our future”.
With that being said, I have taken some time to compile a few excellent resources that provide some clear and concise strategies that parents and educators can use to ensure they are addressing social media and their children in the most beneficial safety promoting ways! (Don’t be afraid to click on many of these awesome links!)
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Top 10 Strategies for Parents:
- Sit down as a family and make an online-use plan. Set the parameters of this plan up as a family and stick to it. Meet and revise the plan with time to ensure that everyone is sticking to it.
- Be aware of your child’s activity on social networking sites. Friend them. Make this an necessity prior to them being permitted to sign up for any social networking sites. By doing this, you are not only able to monitor your child’s activity to an extent, but you are encouraging your child to consider who the other viewers might be that can access their profile, causing them to think things through before posting them to the world.
- Pay to Play. Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside.
- Talk about the risks of being online with your children. Make them aware of how rumours can affect others when spread online. Discuss cyberbullying and identify what this looks like as the bully, bystander and victim. By discussing what to do when this happens, your child will already have the skills at hand when they find themselves in unchartered waters and trouble arises.Safer Internet Day 2016: Red and Murphy talk to Smartie about helping your friends online from UK Safer Internet Centre on Vimeo.
- Educate children about online predators. Teach them: not to download from unknown sources, to tell adults they trust if something doesn’t feel right, never to reveal personal information, never to agree to meet face to face with strangers, to stop communication completely if content shifts to a sexually suggestive nature.
- Educate yourself before letting your child have access to new or unknown sites. Being aware of the safety features of sites can be a powerful tool for parents. Knowing where to go to access this information is key. Using sites like safeinternet provides parents with excellent and easy to understand information about all of the latests sites and apps that children are likely to use.
- Discuss spot checks with your child. Taking the time to check browser history, review downloads, and monitor social media use by your child will help them to be prepared before submitting questionable content to the web. Explaining that this is being done before hand and discussing why, is a very necessary conversation to have rather than simply doing this behind your child’s back. Open communication and trust is key.
- Place computers and keep devices in central locations in the home, such as the family room. Maintaining device free bedrooms, prevents problems that can arise when they are not being monitored. Cellphone parking lots are becoming a popular designated area in homes for devices, and for good reason.
- For children under 12 years of age, consider having their emails routed through the parent’s email first. With practice and earned trust, can come more freedom in the future, but there needs to be a starting point for this trust to be earned as children begin using the web wisely.
- Discuss how trust can be built with your child. Trust is the grounds to earning more freedom. It is not a right to use the internet, it is a privilege and with time this can be earned. Start at the beginning and by the time your child has earned their freedom, you will both feel confident that they are capable of the obstacles ahead.
Top 10 Strategies for Educators:
- Teach lessons on how words can hurt. Teaching students to take responsibility for what they say online before they say something they will regret is a very useful tool to have.
- Be vigilant and in the know. Stay up to date on where kids are going after they are done with Facebook. (Check out this resource, really.)
- Practice using social networking sites in a monitored environment. Find sites that are safe, encourage engagement, and help quieter students to find their voice.
- Start educating children at a young age. Instilling good practices in children at a young age will help them to grow wise and prepared for the open road of technology.
- Practice having students navigate sites using the smart board as a class. Have them make choices as a team that cause them to internalize what safe and risky practices may be. By doing this as a class, students and teachers can have real conversations about common risks and healthy practices when using devices.
- Show videos (see example below) that spark conversations about online etiquette. Through these discussions, compose a social networking contract with your students (rather than just making one for them to sign). Have students take this document home to discuss with their parents before signing it and returning it to class.
- Ensure that teachers are up to date on the latest social networking trends their students may be using online. Using professional development opportunities, taking online courses or refreshers, and even simply surfing the net to stay in the loop, will help educators to educate about the most relevant and up-to-date social networking sites.
- Navigate resources like Safeinternet with your class. By examining sites like this as a class, students will become familiar with where they can go for help if trouble should arise.
- Stay up to date on what you are doing that could put your students in harms way. The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools is a fantastic read for any teachers looking to keep their students safer online in and out of the classroom.
- Discuss how trust can be built with students. Trust is the grounds to earning more freedom. It is not a right to use the internet, it is a privilege and with time this can be earned. Implement a system that rewards students for good device usage. Promoting a healthy online presence is something we can do by simply explaining what it looks like.
By taking the time today, to ensure that our children remain safe using social media tomorrow, we can continue to protect our children and ensure that social media is only promoting the positives for our children as they work to successfully protect their digital footprints moving forward into tomorrow.