I’m going to let you in on a little secret… most kids use the internet-everyday! Reading Amanda Lenhart’s research was not surprising in that kids access the internet and use various social media outlets. What would have been more telling, and perhaps more informative for me, is not learning how much time young people spend online but moreover – what effect does the time online have on our youth?
First of all – there are so many people up in arms about ‘how much time kids spend online’ – and how it’s an outrage. What about how much time is ok for adults to spend online? I know I am one of the biggest hypocrites in regards to how much time I spend on technology versus how much time I let my children use technology. As a matter of fact, there are several times in a day that my face is in my phone and I am telling my children to ‘get off electronics’! But I have read research that tells me limiting my children’s screen time has benefits for their overall physical health. Some studies have gone as far as to label a maximum amount of time children should have screen time. I want to be a good parent, and to know what is best for my kids, but how much is too much in the digital age? I mean, I want my kids to be able to be able to succeed in their lifetime, and let’s be honest – technology is going to be a big part of that.
I’ve been working with several classrooms this year discussing digital citizenship and how it pertains to youth – and most of the students I’ve worked with really seem open to considering some pretty big topics that they hadn’t considered before (thanks to the new Saskatchewan continuum and the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship wiki, these discussions are supported with a strong framework to make teaching them a little easier).
In addition to these conversations, kids have the ability to utilize tools on the web, and they have skills that may far surpass many adults abilities. Minecraft building and strategies is one of the first things that comes to mind when I consider this.
Last week my daughter asked if she could search for a braid tutorial that she wanted to practice on my hair- she proceeded to find a few, selected a video and taught herself some new techniques… and then to ‘show’ me what my hair looked like, she created a mini tutorial video on my phone. I don’t know about you – but I think that’s a pretty cool way to benefit and learn from technology. Additionally – it’s done with screen time and balance in mind.
There are countless ways we could discuss the ‘bad’ side of youth using the internet. There’s those people who choose to ‘game’ for countless hours on end, or those who spend most of their day checking snap chat or other social media, or listening to music, or watching television.
When we read reports that youth spend on average between 9-11 hours a day accessing a screen it paints a stark enough picture (to me) that has me asking “Where is the balance?” In addition to this, we need to be cognizant of the perception of friendships that people have when they interact with others online, and how that may be changing the way youth develop ‘friends’.
Not only are the perception of friends changing, but we also have to consider the perfect identities people put forward on social media and the perception of perfection and happiness that is portrayed to our online ‘friends’. How does this effect the young person’s mental health? Madison Holleran is one example of a young person who had a seemingly ‘perfect happy life’ on Instagram, but was in fact unhappy ‘in real life’ and chose to end her life.
I believe that if Educators work to teach kids about these ‘bad’ pieces of social media, perhaps that will help decrease the amount of ‘bad’ we see on the internet.
The Dare Challenges
I felt pretty strongly that this deserved special attention, and fell beyond the ‘bad’ category. This is probably because of a recent interaction I had with a group of students, who I would have to say pleasantly surprised me with their knowledge of digital citizenship. However, I was blown away by the collective group’s knowledge of (and fascination with) Dare challenge videos. They thought it was funny, and they were engaging with stories that they had seen, and the people they knew who tried them.
Dare Challenges usually consist of vloggers with a substantial following, completing tasks to win a ‘dare’, and encouraging others to follow suit (generally sharing on Social Media outlets).
This is one of the challenges that has recently been going around, in addition to this there has been the duct tape challenge, cinnamon challenge, the Kylie-Jenner challenge, and last but not least the 72 hour challenge.
When the students were so enthralled by these challenges, and laughing about how great they were- I saw for the first time that I was missing a large chunk of teaching in my digital citizenship lessons. The moment was a teachable one though, so we had an open and honest discussion about who is producing the videos and why (followers and money), we talked about the harmful side effects that people have experienced while doing these challenges, and we talked about how watching them or sharing them may actually encourage more challenge videos to be made or worse- seeing the videos in your feed may actually encourage friends in your group to try it, and injure themselves.
These vloggers, who depend on shares and follows to make money, offer a unique piece that we need to navigate and be aware of as teachers. Who are the popular vloggers, and what are they sharing with our youth? Are they trying to be outrageous to secure higher viewership, or are they sharing information with substance? How do we educate our students about these issues before it is too late and they’ve tried or encouraged others to try challenges?