Social Media & Childhood – Smooth Sailing or the Perfect Storm

Attempted my first podcast version of my blog:

 

Are you ready for this week’s bus trip?  Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

girl-1328416_960_720Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.

Is it ruining childhood?
                  That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.

Is social media childhood?
                  It’s certainty part of it is…

I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…

“I know what it’s like to be a kid”

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Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

… he reminded us we don’t.  Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay.  For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.

In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember commodore-528139_960_720the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments.   Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up.  It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility.
(Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)

Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night.  Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.

Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected?  Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream.  Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media.  It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well.  After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.

As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.

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Images from Unsplash & Stocksnap @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory.  Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much).  Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.

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Image from geralt @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.

In “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Derpivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say” George Bowden wrote about the risks of social media use by children.  There are many sharks in the waters for our children to face.  If they want to be connected for FOMO (fear of missing out), they are going to go out in a boat that’s ill equipped to support them during stormy times.  Bowden in fact warned of how ” a potent mix of cyberbullying, increased anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation are increasingly linked to mental illness in children.”

shark-892669_960_720Image from shahart @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media.  In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect.  The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention.  It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy.  Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner.  No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in.  The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.

In a Social Life, Kerith Lemon questioned whether or not our online life is “a carefully curated brand.

While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live.  It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)

Susan Tardanico emphasized,

“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.”

So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction?  It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course.  How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others.  In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.

Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark?  Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships.  Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)

So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet.  For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web.  Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?

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Image from geralt @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms.  It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook.  To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.

The power of amplification.

What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale.  Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.

Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,

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Screenshot from Twitter

why not retweet things that can change our world.  As Bowden  quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”

And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children.  So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes for them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.

Here’s a quick video that we shared with our students during our Social Media Cafes that really sums up the impact of cyberbullying.


Thanks to Logan, Amy and Carter for reminding us of the challenges of social media and to Ellen and Elizabeth who noted that there are many positives as well.

  •  This week Erin wrote, “Children who engage with social media are both consumers and producers of content.  They have the power to create and share words, and we know how powerful words can be.  We live in a world where everyone can create and consume media, do our students fully understand the power of our words in the absence of non-verbal communication. Words on their own are subject to many more misinterpretations that words said by an individual. Now this is just my observation, but words are the first choice of our very young internet users. Video is. Students know how to voice search before they can read.  Content comes in many forms.
  • Heather examined the topic through our nostalgic reflective eyes and questions just how true is our recollection of our childhood? I wonder how true out memories are… just how does our story affect how we remember the stories of our lives.   She also noted that we often hear more bad than good these days.  As now the news comes to us non stop.  In the past, you had to actually turn on the TV and watch the 6 o’clock news or stay up late enough to catch the nightly new with Lloyd Robertson or dare I say Knowlton Nash
  • “Is the box really just a box now, because there is no one left to play with it as we all sit on our devices trolling social media?” Lisa raises a very interesting point in her reflection on Social Media and Childhood.
  • Danielle does an excellent job of summarizing key things that we can all do to make a difference in our children’s social media experience.  Stand up and step into the conversation, the only people that can make the difference are the ones that engage in the conversation.
  • Kyle wrote – Social Meida Acceptance Necessary for Parents – it’s happening whether you like it or not and stepping into the conversation matters.

Start the conversation…. Sharing Matters

 If you teach them how to share it’s more than fair!

This week the Great EdTech debate challenge fell to our team.   We represented the Disagree side of the debate which focused on: Openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids.

If you are interested here’s our opening arguments.

As I first read through the questions, I wondered is it fair not to share?  Teaching in and of itself is sharing of knowledge.  Our goal as educators is to share our knowledge of a concept in a variety of ways that encourages deeper understanding in our students.  As Wiley and Green (2012) pointed out in Why Openness in Education, we even judge educators on their ability to share and impart understanding to students (para. 5 & 6).

So sharing is part of what we do as educators…. rather it’s the what, how and where we share that we really need to think about?  If you think back to when you were growing up, some of us perhaps, didn’t have to worry about the photo someone snapped at a gathering or comment that was shared.  Our networks were smaller.  Perhaps your embarrassing photo made the yearbook or a friend actually had the roll of film developed.  The chances of widespread distribution and repercussions were on a smaller scale.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun if the wrong person got a hold of a photo or some how continued to share things.  It wasn’t however on the same scale as social media provides today.  So keep in mind that many of us who are now parents didn’t grow up in a world with social media or cell phones (mobile phones came in bags and you could only use then in case of emergency because who could afford the cost per minute).

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Image from Meme Generator

 

Is the answer to attempt to remove technology from our lives and avoid any device that could capture our image so that facial recognition software can’t identify us?  I guess you can try but for the large majority of us it’s not practical; moreover, sticking our head in the proverbial sand won’t make the issue go away, but someone might make a nice meme out of it.

In my experience it’s about having the courage to step into the conversation with students and talk about what’s going on.  Is oversharing happening?  What type of images are being posted?  What if you just like or comment – does that make you part of it?  It also means that we need to model or attempt thoughtful digital citizenship the best we can.  This means that we need to know what engaged, thoughtful digital citizens do.  While we may not all have access to Digital Learning Consultants and I have to say thank-you to Thad, Kirk and Robert for their ongoing encouragement and support during my years as a teacher and consultant.  It makes a difference to have knowledgeable and reflective people to talk to about digital issues.  So as the Agree team mentioned during the debate, we live in the real world and ongoing to access to PD and support people may not always be possible; however, we do live in an age where there is ample helpful information online about digital citizenship and digital footprints. I first learned about the elements of Digital Citizenship on Mike Ribble’s website.

Mike Ribble Retweet.JPG

What about oversharing?  You know it’s going to happen and it’s like a digital tattoo.  It has the potential to fade but never really go away. How do you prevent it?  I think it begins with open communication with our children.  As educators and parents,  we have a great opportunity to talk about the pictures we take and how we share them.  When you snap that pic and post it to Facebook, do you talk to your child about where you are posting it?  Am I posting it publicly for everyone to see on my profile or am I sharing it with a select group of people in a secret Facebook group?  Think about the conversation potential that exists with our Pre-K and K teachers as they document and share student learning with parents.  I’ve seen our early learning teachers engage in thoughtful conversations about what they are sharing and who will see it.  As a parent, I really appreciate getting the updates of what my daughter is doing in class.  Plus hearing her voice as she explains it is priceless. Sharing matters.

Worried about oversharing?  It’s happening all around us and it may be impacting our lives more than we know.

 

On the flip side, I remember back to a time when I was co-teaching my Bio 30 class with a teacher of a grade 5 class in a different community.  We skyped everyday and each grade 12 was paired with a grade 5 student in the 1:1 learning project.  We talked often about the expectations and how we needed to be engaged digital citizens, yet a grade 5 overshared info – nothing earth shattering but enough that the Bio 30 student was concerned.  What it did do was generate a healthy discussion about what was appropriate to share in our wikispace discussions and how we can learn from the experience.  We were working in a safe private space, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us.  One that will hopefully remind us all to think before we share.

So starting the conversation early will help engage students and teachers in thoughtfully sharing positive experiences to grow their digital footprint, which in turn helps model the practice to parents and family that may not have considered those aspects.  Kathy Cassidy shared in her video that yes what we share in social media is permanent but because of that it’s a great way to look back and see how much we have grown. She also talked about the value of modeling how to use social media and in doing so how we influence student’s understanding of the world and practice empathy.

 

Steven W. Anderson shared Meredith Stewart’s tweet, “If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”  He encouraged readers to start building their brand – their digital identity.  You do this by sharing and creating positive online footprints, but as the Agree team pointed out – you need to watch out for bouncing.  When a photo that you have shared gets used for something else. As Anderson pointed out, not only do you have to actively build a positive identity you have to monitor it.  Alec Couros noted in our follow up conversation that just googling our names doesn’t truly include all of our digital footprint.  We need to consider the data that is tracked in all the apps that we use.

Alec discussed how facial recognition technology is now available and when he showed us how it worked with his own images, we realized just how many people there are out there that look just like him. (I mean exactly like him!  They in fact are using one of his photos as their profile picture).  We have to learn how to be aware of the footprints we are actively creating, as well as those that are being created without our consent.

Should all of this scare you as an educator away from sharing? or considering the sharing of student work?  It’s important to consider the positive impacts of sharing. Rather than only relying on standardized assessments to ensure academic standards are being met. Bence asked “what if learner work were shared on a wider level so that the work could speak for itself.  She shared examples of how being transparent with what’s happening in the classroom has added “another layer of authenticity to education” (para. 4). Learners have become more active participants in their own education especially when they know the audience is more than just the classroom.  As with any online venture in education, Bence encouraged educators to check with their schools and districts to ensure practices align with responsible use.

Here’s part of our closing arguments from Tuesday night – sharing matters and it’s important to teach our children how to share.

You are welcome to check out our team’s resource list.  We’ve selected a number of articles and guides to help educators grow their understanding of sharing.

These resources are a great place to start.

What will matter in the future as our Facebook babies grow up and realize just what their parents and teachers have shared?  I can only imagine where we will be when I think about how things have evolved in the first half of my teaching career… or even in the last 5 years for that matter.

What matters today is that we start the conversation. Hopefully if we start today and engaging in ongoing conversations about digital citizenship, we will all learn to pause before we post and think about the potential ripple effect.

Regardless of social media or old fashioned information sharing asking ourselves the following question will impact how we try to live our lives.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Special thanks to Lisa and Haiming!  What a great team – glad to have had the chance to work with you!

As I’ve had a chance to read through other blog posts, these are a few that have stood out to me:

  • Jeremy B  explained we all need to engage in digital citizenship education.  He suggested introducing it to parents at meet the teacher nights as a way to engage parents.  He noted that it’s also about sharing the resources we have with parents.
  • Erin B shared her decision to share student work using Seesaw and how she shared expectations with parents and students.  It’s making the time to explicitly teach the students about digital citizenship and then apply it to their learning that truly makes a difference. Learning about digital citizenship in authentic situations truly makes a difference.
  • I really enjoyed Amy’s blog post.  In particular, she referenced a an article by Geddes  that questioned how quickly we post.  She pointed out that when we had to go to our computers, log in, find the photo, upload, add the comment and then post – that we were more thoughtful.  Has tech made it so easy that we’ve eliminated our thinking time?
  • Justine  – made a very interesting point – our digital footprints can change as our names do which build on the conversation started by Amy S.  I also agree that sharing a letter home with parents that invites them to participate and be aware of the social media use in a classroom is important.  If you remember Mark Prensky’s Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants articles, Justine shared a great way to think of the differences in ways that we use the internet as Digital visitors vs Digital Residents. She also shared this quick video.
    • Just listed to  Alec’s TED X Talk. A very thoughtful look at the value of understanding our digital identity and just how connected we are.  Lots of great ideas to think about here.
  • Tyler’s post Unfair? Nope.pointed out the value of helping students learn about digital citizenship and have the opportunity to practice it.  Plus he also shares some very helpful resources.
  • Luke’s post about “The More We Share, the More we Have” raises many thoughtful points about why we share what we do and the value included in it. You’ll also want to check out the oversharing video – well worth the watch.
  • Kelsie shared many great points but when she shared the Terms of Service – Didn’t read it website things got really interesting.