Is Social Media harming adolescent development?

According the CNN article, Why some 13 year old check social media 100 times a day, “”I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away. It’s really bad,” said Gia, a13-year-old. “I literally feel like I’m going to die.” She along with 200 other teen volunteers across the United States participated in a national study by child development experts  trying to figure out… what kids actually say to each other on social media and why it matters so deeply to them.”  I was quite interested in this article and the study because as a middle and high school teacher, I see first hand my student’s obsession with social media. I have lost count how many times in each class I have told my students to stop taking selfies or videos and to put their cell phones away. They really are obsessed with the social media and what their peers are doing or saying online about them or other students. They are always looking for the next big thing or excitement or gossip.  I am reminded of this when I witness a fight on my way home from work. Before hitting the high way I have to drive through a middle school and another high school which is within 4 blocks from my own school.  While driving through the school zone, I noticed a horde of kids with the phones out, videotaping something. At first I didn’t see the fight on my left because I was focused on the kids right side. I wanted to make sure they were not going to walk out in front of car and into the streets as it is their habit. I saw two boys fighting when I followed their line of vision. They looked like high school kids. One was breathing heavily and the other had his shirt off. They were swinging at each other, and the one with the shirt off got hit and fell in the street. I couldn’t drive because there were cars in front of me and the other drivers  were yelling at the kids to stop fighting.  The bystander continued to film the action while I tried to shout out my student’s name to get his attention, but the crowd was too noisy and I was not close enough to my student. In hindsight I should have called the police but I was too busy trying to get my student’s attention to tell him to leave and go home.  

With all kids filming with their phones, I’m pretty sure this fight was shared and talked about over a hundred times. When you think about it, can you blame these kids? This is the world they were born into. It’s what they know and are used to.  According to the one of the child psychologist, Marion Underwood,”…they’re addicted to the peer connection and affirmation they’re able to get via social media… To know what each other are doing, where they stand, to know how many people like what they posted, to know how many people followed them today and unfollowed them … that I think is highly addictive.” Of course this makes perfect sense because they are still developing their identity and self-worth and yes, their peers opinions matter more to them then that of their parents or teachers. All we can do is let them know we are there if they need us or have questions.

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Middle School and High School kids filming the fight.

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One of my student filming the fight. He is the one in the baseball cap.

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