I have been teaching since, last seventeen years, enjoying my profession. It has given me a new direction, a new identity and most important sense of satisfaction. One aspect of growing up that has changed dramatically in the past few years but has not received scant attention is the advent of social media or online social networking.
Social Media are computer mediated tools, that allow people and organizations, to create, share or exchange information in virtual communities and networks. Young people have been heavy adopters of social media, today's generation of teenagers is the first cohort to have grown up with online social networking sites especially the Millennial kids. YouTube, FaceBook, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Instagram are all primary interface with the Internet. One must clearly understand that these portals are generally used in an 'always on' state via smartphones and tablets hence the children are permanently connected to their virtual social network, continually receiving and checking feed, regularly posting their own updates, blogs etc. Instant gratification and encouragement is expressed if a post is liked or shared. It's a tool for developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, a real time portal for accessing information, news advice and support as well as a canvas for sketching a selective and idealised self - portrait.
One must clearly understand that these portals are generally used in an 'always on' state via smartphones and tablets hence the children are permanently connected to their virtual social network.
Years ago when society got bored with television, same thematic serials, repeat telecast of serials, came YouTube as a big relief to aid a DIFFERENT Media expression. One could upload their own music, lectures, funny stories and creative ideas: a digital revolution. It transformed the virtual world overnight increasing the web viewership equally among adults and and younger generation.
I could see the changes in my teaching career as I could bring interactive content learning tools, smart board, make my class rooms connect to virtual world it has added to my personal growth and development. However it has posed many challenges and made me think to give it a thought now because of increasing number of cases in my classes year after year. I have students who are restless, depressed. This brings some major complementary theories that help to explain why, how, extensive social media may have a negative effect on children's well being.
I. Social comparison theory: It means increased social media use linked to more frequent social comparisons with others. These are more likely to be upward negative in direction because people choose to present online representation of selectively idealized versions of their true appearance activities and achievements.
II. Finite resources: Extensive time spent on social media encroaches on other activities known to be beneficial for psychological well-being such as face to face socializing, sports or physical exercise, mental physical relaxation.
III. Cyber bullying: Relates to the fact that children who spend more time on social networks have a greater chance of being the victim of Cyber bullying or direct attacks from others on their sense of self, well being and self esteem.
IV. Social Media and Depressive symptoms in Child hood and adolescence. A systematic search of Medline Psycho and Embase databases yielded some interesting studies a correlation between social media use and depressive symptoms in young people. Every where you go you can see these youngsters teens and tweens obsessively checking their social media feeds on their phones, uploading smiling selfies etc but in actual terms they might not be happy with what they see in their constant day to day digital streams.
V. Poor Satisfaction. A new study published by the INA Institute of labor economics suggests that they may actually feel less satisfied with their lives after spending merely an hour each day on social media. Various aspects of their generation daily lives from school to relationships with family and friends are all related to Young users feeling blue dull all the time. In 2014, neuro scientist Susan Green field argued in her book Mind Change that digital technology has delirious effects on personality identity and relationships. Instant gratification, the youngsters seek validation from the number of likes that they get and posts are viewed and shared. In 2006, Jean Twenge argued in an influential book, Generations Me that narcissistic behavior is increasing among younger children. People with narcissistic traits are prone to low moods when their high expectations are not fulfilled. Huprich in 2014 describes a narcissistic personality pattern including depressive and a malignant self regard.
VI. Mood Swings. I could see that in my class past few years several students having mood swings. Several other symptoms like headaches, vomiting or general dullness. Emerging effects of digital media on mental health. I realize now Internet can be a harsh environment for young people, who are heavily influenced by peer pressure conformity is rewarded while a careless remark might result in a person being ostracized. Young female Internet users are particularly keen to choose the most favorable image of themselves on Facebook. Another aspect which is very alarming especially among girls and boys is that girls used the net mostly for relationships boys for instrumental activities like video games.
VII. Body Clock. My next observation in the past few years is excessive use of Internet leading to disruption of the body clock as a psychological consequences of Internet use. Blue light emitted by digital screens inhibits secretion of melatonin which is necessary for sleep. A meta analysis by Carter and colleagues in 2016 showed that sleeping beside mobile devices stimulates the brain and disturbed sleeping patterns may cause obesity weakness, stunted growth, day to day tiredness and irritability all affecting the concentration in the class room and mood swings.
VIII. Commercialization. Only 25 years since Tim Barnsley made the World wide web available to the public and the generation which is growing up now uses a smartphone, more than half of all mobile connections are broad band, on line shopping with or without parents approval. I often hear my students talk about the product available and how they buy it. Influence of advertising on buying my concern is social media sites displaying multiple messages advertising banners ads on dating.. Influencing the young. Mixed messages from the parents and the law result of latest blue whale comments.
13 years is the minimum age for most social media sites set by COPPA children on line privacy protection act. Facebook or my space it also prevents website from collecting information from young kids but then it is fashionable for kids when they informed me that sites like Disney club Penguin sites do not have such restrictions. With so many challenges, problems can I think of a world without Internet social media etc impossible can we just tell them to stay away from technology. Hence as time moves on we have to move forward make sure this world is a better place.
Role of Teachers.
I am lucky to be part of an Institution which is more than 62 years old and has a great environment for self growth and learning. We have student teacher very friendly relationship and most importantly number of students in class is 38 only. We have General Class weekly once so that gives students to interact together. All our activities are very meaningful and balance with academics and extra curricular activities. I now suggest for all schools to have compulsory Digital Awareness program conducted by teachers, senior students to educate the young between 10-14. Teachers to regularly keep an eye on behavior issues of students and regularly counseling sessions conducted. Once a week Class teachers have to educate the students about harmful effects of media.Keep open relationships with students interacting sessions.
Role of Parents.
Today, parents find themselves in a dilemma. They don't want their children to be excluded from social activities on line but they are also aware that certain sites are not age-appropriate. This is a fast-paced industry with new sites emerging regularly. Parents need to constantly know what how to navigate the options available while allowing their children to participate in age appropriate social activities on line. I found this one very useful: Safer Social Network principles a self regulatory agreement by the major social networking service providers in Europe. Broad principles include raise awareness of safety education messages and acceptable use policies to users parents teachers in prominent clear and appropriate manner. Parents need to spend quality time with children, monitoring daily on line activities. Parents need to be careful always.
"Now of course a free and open Internet is vital. But in no other market and with no other industry do we such an extraordinary light touch when it comes to protecting our children. Children can't go into the market or cinema, buy things meant for adults, we regulate to protect them. But when it comes to the Internet, in the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children. So we have got to be more active, more aware more responsibile about what happens online. And when I say we, I mean we collectively, governments, parents Internet providers and platforms educators and charities."
David Cameron, speech on 24 July 2013.
Sources of information:
1. Younger children and social networking sites.
2. Social media and depressive symptoms in childhood and adolescence a systematic review Edward pursue, Sheryl Getting, Niall McCray.
3. The Atlantic article "smart phone reduces your brain power."
4. Pediatrics official journal of the American Academy.
5. Abstract on social media and social responsibility.
6. YouTube lecture by Simon Sinek.
7. Ted talks on media and children.
8. Class students' inputs.
About the Author:
Mrs. Anuradha Prasad: I am working in Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School (CBSE), Chennai for the past 11 years handling classes 6-10 English and History. Before that I worked in Banglore at Sri Kumaran school SKCH (CBSE). I have won Best Teacher award from Wipro for WATIS program and undergone one-year training by Teacher Foundation Maya Menon & Wipro Applying school of thoughts. For Karnataka Govt. we as a team of teachers wrote English text books for rural areas classes 1-3. In Vidya Mandir, I am instrumental in starting the Model United Nations Club for High school students as an independent group supported by our principal and vice principal since last five years. Digital media has helped me in creating a wonderful team of 52 students using social media in the most productive and effective way. Similarly INTACH program of Heritage Club Delhi started ten years ago the 'Film it' project making three minutes movie on any aspect of heritage. Again I started the pilot program with full support of social media and Internet. I believe if properly utilized social media can work wonders for the growth of students especially in age groups of 10-14.
(Images provided by author)