From Liability to Asset: A New Take on Social Media


What a great debate last night! Our topic: Is social media ruining childhood?

We heard opening statements from Team Agree and then opening statements from my team, Team Disagree. 


Here are the highlights from each team:



On the flip side, social media  has the potential to strengthen relationships and offer a sense of belonging. Media Smarts tells us teens around the world have embraced social media to connect with others who can encourage them, mentor them, inspire them, and – most of all – show them they are not alone”. In Common Sense Media’s 2012 research study, “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives”, teens indicated a that social media has a positive impact on their relationships and social well-being.

Mental health is another issue that must be examined in relation to social media. This article, How Social Media Helps Students Cope with Anxiety and Depression, presents a variety of examples in which students found solace in a social media platform. While I agree that social media can be the cause of mental health issues, this article demonstrates how it can also be a site of relief.

Mental health issues and bullying existed before social media. Social media is simply a tool that has created another avenue for mental health concerns and bullying to present itself within. This calls for the guided expertise of informed adults – teachers and parents – to engage in discussion with young people. It is increasingly relevant to teach youth about how social media can impact mental wellness as well as how to respond to cyberbullying concerns or how to be an upstander if they are witnessing cyberbullying.

Erin pointed out many important ideas when it comes to social media safety. She said ” Safety online is key. It is important that parents and teachers make an effort to be informed about what they are allowing their children to access online. As the public is learning lately in the news, reading policies is very important.  We suggest that parents should also be following the recommended age restriction set by online sites. Parents, teachers, and students need to be aware of the potential safety issues with online behaviour.  Thus it is key that parents and teachers help children learn what it means to be safe online and model these behaviours.  As Media Smarts shares in their article Social Media RulesHaving a family agreement or set of ground rules for using social networks is a good idea. It’s a great way for parents and kids to work together on how to be safe, wise and responsible online.” Media Smarts also explains that, “As kids begin to use tools such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives”. 

In an educational context, social media has the power to encourage learning in a globally connected way and encourage collaboration. According to Joanne Orlando: “Social media is a platform for sharing ideas, information and points of view. This can have important educational value: it extends the information young people can access while also giving them insight into how others think about and use that information. Maximum educational benefit comes from combining factual information with shared reflection. This can support a balanced, varied and “real” input for kids, which can help deepen their understanding of a subject”. This learning links to a final positive for team social media: the power of social media to create change for a better world. Social media is an outlet for young people to have a voice in social justice issues and create positive change. There are endless examples of students using various social media outlets to bring awareness to recent trending social issues such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and March for Our Lives movements and the more recent Humboldt Strong movement which hit home in Saskatchewan. An article in The Guardian  discusses social media as a weapon for good in light of the Parkland shooting. The article states “the very openness of social media platforms makes it possible for voices in the midst of a mass shooting to find an audience and shift our understanding of events”.

The fact is, the vast majority of kids are doing the right things when it comes to social media, but social media receives a bad rap in (ironically) mass media which highlights all of the negative risks associated with its use.

The following is a transcript of our closing arguments and I think it wraps up this post nicely:

Social media is part of modern society’s landscape. It is not going away, therefore, we need to think of constructive and productive ways to manage how we use social media and how we teach young people to be responsible, active, participating members of society. To do so we need to look at elements of responsible digital citizenship, digital safety and kindness and digital wellness. Educating youth about the responsible use of social media should be approached at an early age to minimize the potential of adverse effects on their wellbeing. If this education happens early and is taught in effective ways, social media can enhance childhood development by strengthening relationships, offering a sense of belonging, providing support for young people, helping students develop autonomy and digital identity as well as encourage and enhance learning. As we have seen through various social media outlets, youth have the power through social media to make the world a better place. The generation of tomorrow have the potential to be the foundation of a better more inclusive, compassionate and empathetic society.  Social media will play a central role in determining how this society will be built. We as teachers must be at the forefront of helping our students acquire and develop the necessary skills to be the leaders of tomorrow.

What really sealed the deal for me and helped me plant my feet with what we (Team Disagree) were suggesting was reading this article: Generation Zers Take on the Social Media AgeThis essay, authored by seventeen-year-old Elena Quartararo, was one of ten winners in the New York Times Fifth Annual Student Editorial Contest where students write about issues that matter to them. This essay provides an insider perspective of a Gen Z youth on the relevance of social media and the “information superhighway” that today’s young people consider a vital tool in the progress of the human race in tackling substantial issues such as climate change, gender equality and mass shootings among many others. Access to information, global connections and platforms in which student creativity can lead to social change are among the positive aspects of social media cited in this article. This young voice is a gem — a diamond in the rough — attempting to dismantle the the negative perspectives of social media by the previous generations. It’s worth the read. 

Drum roll please…

The votes are in and I think it’s been our closest debate yet!


7 thoughts on “From Liability to Asset: A New Take on Social Media

  1. Very well written Brooke! I especially like this line: “The generation of tomorrow have the potential to be the foundation of a better more inclusive, compassionate and empathetic society.” For me, it feels like you are reflecting not only on our future, but our past as well. I think that’s what each new generation strives for, right? To improve and continue to progress in building a better, more inclusive society. The tools that we develop to advance our causes will change with each passing generation. As such, they will feel alien to the generation that is used to seeing their ideas expressed in different ways.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Great post, Brooke! I especially liked your summary of both teams’ arguments. I like the resources you shared, especially Common Sense Media – perfect timing as I prepare for the final summary of learning. Social media can definitely be an asset if we use the tools appropriately AND if we teach our students about responsible use. Your team did a great job convincing (and reminding me) to give young people more credit for what they are doing with social media. If we guide them as educators and parents, we will probably be surprised with their passion and advocacy for many causes!

  3. Great post, Brooke. You mentioned, “Social media is part of modern society’s landscape. It is not going away, therefore, we need to think of constructive and productive ways to manage how we use social media and how we teach young people to be responsible, active, participating members of society. To do so we need to look at elements of responsible digital citizenship, digital safety and kindness and digital wellness.” I am curious whether you have any examples of this, or if you have tried anything in your own class you’d like to share.

    Side note: I like the way you organized the pros and cons of each side’s debate. That is exactly how I write my notes during the debates, but I never thought of writing it up in a chart for my blog. Smart!

    1. Hi Kari,
      I do have some examples of this though I am just in the beginning stages of my learning. Last semester I worked on teaching about all of those topics you mentioned — digital citizenship, safety, wellness — as part of my major project for EC&I 832. Some, not all, of the lessons I explored with my students are up on my blog under that class’ page. If you are looking for a good place to start, Ribble’s 9 Elements is a good place to look as well as the SK Digital Citizenship document co-authored by Alec. Common Sense Media, Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum and Media Smarts have some great lessons to follow and there is an emerging collection of digital citizenship children’s books coming out lately that helped me work through teaching digital citizenship in my classroom this year. I hope to integrate this topic further next year and will continue to look for resources. This class and other ed tech courses make it very evident that the need to digital citizenship education is important and very timely as well. Thanks for your comments!

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