The Great Tech Debate #4: Is Technology Ruining Childhood

As a teacher and mother, last night’s debate was an issue that I think about often.  I am constantly oscillating between the positives and challenges that Technology brings into our lives.  As a mother, I want my children to know who they are, is exactly who they are supposed to be.  The light that is in them (they are 5 and 4) is something I constantly marvel at.  They see their gifts and are not afraid to share them.  They show pride in learning something new.  They support each other.  They are unapologetically themselves every day.  I want them to remember all that they are before society tells them who they are supposed to be so they can stand firm in those convictions while navigating this diverse world of information. I want the same for my students.  However, I shift the lens from a concerned parent, to an educator that wants to provide opportunities to see the benefits of Social Media.  I want to empower students to connect and learn from experts in the field.  No matter how hard I try, my perspective is limited on many issues, because no matter how much I educate myself I have a deficit lens in various areas (social justice for example) and I believe it is more beneficial and necessary to facilitate conversations and education from perspectives that can speak to a full experience. Therefore, I am trying to find a balance between the positives and negatives and us technology as a tool to amplify voices, to express their own and to be educated.  The power of technology is unlimited, but so are the risks.  Last night’s debate gave great information from both sides of the argument. Information I will use professionally and personally as I move forward.

Laurie and Christina did a marvelous job at bringing awareness to the pitfalls parents and educators need to be aware of with the increased access to technology. I must admit that before the debate started I sided with the Disagree side in the pre-vote, and even during the debate, I found myself thinking of all the opportunities in the obstacles.  However, as I looked over the articles that Laurie and Christina included in their research, my thoughts expanded beyond an optimistic “everything is a lesson” perspective and really consider the real and realistic examples they gave about the pitfalls of technology.  I began to think of the responsibility parents and teachers must put forth when navigating the 21st century learning.  I shifted my perspective from optimistic to realistic.  Laurie and Christina invited me to deepen my thinking to be fully prepared for ways to empower and educate my students and my own children so that the negatives they spoke of (the young girl in Montreal posting inappropriate photos on Instagram, the heinous example of people impersonating people with disabilities) happen less.  And if they do happen, empower student voice to report situations where people are unsafe or being marginalized.  They showed the essential need to exhibit critical thinking before engaging and positing behavior that is dehumanizing and unsafe. The article Disadvantages of Social Networking: Surprising Insights from Teens, Price-Mitchell shared specific things teachers and parents need to be aware to be fully informed.  The article states that technology can create space that “Lacks Emotional Connection, gives people a license to be hurtful, decreases face-to-face Communication skills, conveys Inauthentic Expression of feelings, diminishes understanding and thoughtfulness, causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected, facilitates laziness, creates skewed self-image, reduces family closeness, causes distractions”.  Laurie went onto further substantiate the points listed above when she said that we do not know the long-term impacts of social media, or the negatives of the immediate and pervasive access to our phones.  She asked the question that with more research and study will we look back on this as we did when smoking was considered to be a healthy and fine thing to do?  Therefore, it is imperative we do not lose sight of the challenges and negatives that come with technology.  We need to consider both sides.  At the end of the day, Laurie and Christina showed great insight that it is about protecting people’s well-being, their mental health, their ability to develop deep meaningful relationships and connections and ensuring that we are aware of the negative ramifications as well as the opportunities.  Their points made me think of the video below: Simon Sinek- Millennials in the Workplace that went viral a few years ago. 

Dean and Amy went on to defend the opportunities that technology has brought into our modern lives.  As an educator, I see students using technology to enhance their lives and their connections. I am seeing them connect with “experts” in fields that brings them greater education about topics. I am seeing them create and innovate using tech in ways that was not accessible in years passed.  As a parent, I see my kids easily able to connect with their grandparents using technology. I observe them watching a YouTube video of kids showing their toys and then trying to create their own content showing their toys getting creative with what they think others would find interesting. (Side bar- they create their content for my husband and I, we don’t film or post this- not sure if that is adding to Dean and Amy’s or Laurie and Christina’s argument).  I have overhead them mid-playing saying “if you like this video please hit the thumbs up and subscribe”.   Part of me is taken aback at this language; the other part of me thinks it is incredibly interesting how they have a world of possibility at their fingertips and watching a video sparks creativity, collaboration and formal presentation.  Another example of young kids using technology to share their voice is my second cousins daughter (so my second cousin once removed?  Yes I googled that) has recently created a Baking Blog. Her mom shared her work online and stated “It’s been such a great learning experience: web design, video editing, photography, web hosting, content writing and more. At home learning has really worked well for her by giving her the chance to learn while doing one of her passions – baking!”  In the article 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media Smart Social discusses these opportunities by stating “Social media can be used to create a positive digital footprint and search result, social media can help students learn essential job skills, promotes creativity and technological savvy and creativity”. 

In summary, as per usual, I see excellent points on both sides of this debate.  I suppose that is a gift of debates, I get to read and listen to incredibly informed sides.  This active listening and in depth evidence from both sides shed light on ways in which I can make better decisions and greater awareness to the positives and challenges of teaching and using technology in the modern world, in my classroom and in my home.  Thank you Laurie, Christina, Dean and Amy for bringing so much food for thought that I can consider when moving forward.

7 thoughts on “The Great Tech Debate #4: Is Technology Ruining Childhood

  1. Pingback: Summary of Learning | Jacquie Murrays Musings

  2. Hi Jacquie, I always enjoy reading your posts and hearing your point of view during our debates. You are so eloquent. Like Jocelyn, the part where you talk about your kids recreating YouTube videos with their toys spoke to me. My six-year-old LOVES watching videos of kids opening toys, of kids playing Minecraft or of kids playing mini hockey with their siblings. He asked me the other day if we could film ourselves while playing hockey in the basement and he was going on and on about what we would create during our video. It was interesting to hear his chain of thoughts and how his imagination was coming out. I didn’t know what to tell him. I felt my excuse for saying no wasn’t good enough but in retrospect, I’m not sure I’m equipped or ready to take on a responsibility that big. I think I’ll stick with explaining why we have set times to use technology and why using it too much and in bad ways can be harmful to his wellbeing. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I am so happy to hear the part of being a Mom and navigating these waters with children resonated with you. The universal experience of wanting to give our kids opportunities to be themselves, to create, learn something new and watching them be uniquely themselves is my greatest blessing. I suppose that’s exactly the reason I will navigate their use of tech and social media diligently and with love and respect but also boundaries. These dialogues help me name what they could look like, knowing full well that the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition! But here’s to doing our best to give the equal measure opportunity and safety !

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  3. Great analysis of both the debate and suggested reading materials. I also see both sides of this issue. As a mother of 2 daughters I witnessed changes in personality and self esteem with the introduction of social media when they were in middle school (they are now 20&18). I can’t totally blame social media but it definitely plays a part. My advice: keep open communication about social media and constantly remind them that people present an edited version of their life. I am constantly telling my girls this and they always reply with “I know mom” …but I’m not sure they do.

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  4. Hi Jacquie,
    I am a mom of an eight and an eleven year old and I can totally relate to the way you feel. Even after the great debate, I feel I am stuck in the middle. Social Media certainly has a number of advantages and disadvantages. Since I don’t think we can hide or run away from it, the most reasonable solution seems to be using it in moderation and educating youth before they actually start using Social Media. I think life has speed up so much, no time for our children to get to a certain level of maturity to navigate the online world safely.

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  5. Jacquie I always enjoy reading your posts. I find them insightful, personal and often I can connect to them. So thank you for writing another great post. I also really appreciated your points as a mother. I love how you opened up your post about the way you view your kids! Anyways, I found the part about youtube and the way your children play by copying the videos they see interesting. It is neat to see how they become so creative and learn from the videos they watch. I am sure we did that too from movies and books we read as kids but I think the fact that the tools they use to influence themselves are connected to other people is a little frightening. I can relate to the feelings you express about this. We want our kids to grow from the positives of social media and technology but protect them from the darker sides. Again I am sure our parents felt the same way about new inventions when we were kids but in this moment the unknown is still a little frightening!

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  6. I really enjoyed your post and as a mom, could relate to the feeling of being caught in the middle of the pros and cons of social technology on my children’s lives. I especially found the video you posted interesting. Sinek makes valid points on the importance of balance when using social media and having patience. Not everything is only a click away – some things are worth waiting for. Great post!

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