Essentials: 24/7 Connectivity - The Impact of Social Media on Children's Well-being

Essentials: 24/7 Connectivity - The Impact of Social Media on Children's Well-being

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Are you worried about the impact of social media on your students? Are you struggling to find practical steps that you can take to support them emotionally?

In this Essentials episode our guest speaker, Claire Orange (expert and author on social and emotional learning), sheds light on the addictive nature of online platforms and shares essential strategies for teachers to guide students through the digital age.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

Are you worried about the negative effects of social media on the children that you work with? Are you struggling to find practical steps that you can take to support them emotionally? Then join us for today's essentials episode where we discuss this very current and relevant topic. Welcome to the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton. And we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course, students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour Secrets podcast.

So what common problems do you see families and school struggling with when they're trying to teach their kids to be safe on social media? 

Claire Orange  1:50  

Across the board, what we see schools struggling with and families struggling with is that highly addictive nature of social media. So including in that sign that I'm including gaming in that world. So gaming is a media that is social. For children, it's often excluded, we think about Facebook, and Instagram and Snapchat, but you know, gaming is very social for children as well. It's highly addictive. And it's very well programmed by very clever people to ensure that at the moment where you normally leave that environment that a loot bag is dropped, or some small trinket that keeps you engaged. Now that's great for our children. So schools and families are really struggling because young people love being in this world, adults love being in this world too. And when they come off, there's a bit of a behavioural fallout for most children, they coming off a very high dopamine level in the brain, and then coming back into normal world which you know, emptying the dishwasher is not wildly exciting for most children.

Simon Currigan  2:49  

As teachers, what are the key strategies and protective behaviours you think we should be equipping our kids with to safely use social media? 

Claire Orange  2:59  

Well, these really fit well within the parameters of what we know works with children's mental health. So protective behaviours, is very aligned to mental health in the early years of childhood. And that's managing self managing others making responsible decisions and showing empathy. So those are the really foundation pillars for growing out brain health of the child the protective behaviours around that the ones that we commonly talk about, like consent, that so a child consenting to have their image online to sharing another child's image to the contact that they receive, should I or shouldn't I find this person who looks like they really like me, you know, those are the key things that we need to be addressing with our children who are in this massively overexposed world on social media. And then knowing how to protect themselves online from all of the lovely shiny stuff that's put there specifically to draw them in like little moths to the flame. When we wrap our protective behaviours children know how to manage themselves, they know how to manage others, they can pause before they post and make a responsible decision. And they know how to be a great citizen by showing empathy for others, which is often absent online.

Simon Currigan  4:15  

You bring up an interesting point there because in terms of empathy, if you say something unpleasant to someone face to face, you get to see their reaction and you feel that inside yourself and you kind of see the damage that you've done. But if you're trolling someone on social media, you don't really see the impact of your actions. And that's going to impact on how our kids learn about saying unkind things to other people and the effect that's going to have. 

Claire Orange  4:41  

It's so very true. You know, you think right from the moment that we all hold our precious little babies we share eye contact with them we have an animated face. You know when they said we have a sad face and they learning to read human emotion off this big dial that we've got, you know, that we put forward to our child I told them, they can see our body, they can hear our tone of voice, right from the very earliest moments. And in human brains, it's called serve and return. So I put something out and your brain captures that, and then learns how to respond to it. And that's that serve and return. It's a really amazing part of human neurology that lights up. And yet, there's none of it in the online world. And in fact, what we're modeling, and I'll use that global way to children online, when you see adults behaving exceptionally poorly. So you just need to look at any COVID based discussion at the moment to see everyone come out and flay everyone else, regardless of your opinion or point of view, you've got to bring someone down, you've got to shame them, you got to be highly judgmental, and it kind of becomes a bit of a crown of achievement. And that's what we're exposing our children to. But actually, their brains aren't wired for that. That's not how human brains learn. 

Simon Currigan  5:56  

No, we're not learning about human relationships, are we? And you made a really interesting point as well about consent. And we've got to ask questions about whether children can meaningfully give consent, because do they understand what might happen to their photos? Do they understand what might happen to their comments and the things that they're sharing online? Do they have the life experience to be able to give informed consent in terms of social media? And what happens next?

Claire Orange  6:20  

I think like anything, developmentally, there's always a really long run up to that level, which is quite a cognitively driven consent. I've got to think about it, I've got to think, do I or don't I want my image? What will happen if that gets shared? So there's a lot that you have to think about, and have this ability to do the consequential thinking that's a long developing skill, but what we do know is that you can train consent from early by when you say to your child, would you like to give Auntie made this a cuddle? And your child says no, is that you don't then shove your child into the arms of Auntie Mavis, who loves your child, but your child has said no. And when we honor that in the child, and we say, well, if you don't feel like it today, maybe you can just give Auntie Mavis a big smile, then we start to teach consent. So consent is a continuum. It starts early in actions. And it also starts with parents and teachers, what we are modeling, you know, the average child, Simon has 5000 images of themselves posted online by their fifth birthday, no one has thought to give that child or ask that child for their consent, neither parent or teacher, and those images then become the property of the social media platform. So I believe as parents consent really starts by deciding how much you're going to post of your child's tantrum online. And being very honorable and respectful about that because then we teach consent that later, our children actually have a template for they've got a foundation for but if we don't do that, in their early childhood, we can't then teach it when they 12. 

Simon Currigan  8:01  

And of course, another aspect to this is if you or I were younger, before social media before the internet, if we had a bad day, or if someone was picking on us or bullying us, when we got home, we could get away from that and shut the door and escape from it. But it's 24/7 it's hard to escape from a phone that's ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. 

Claire Orange  8:19  

It is and you know, I think across the world, that's what we look at in terms of campaigning is how always on the world of social media is for our children and how we are all it's a bit like Pavlov's dogs. If anyone's heard about Pavlov's dogs, you know, you ring the bell and the dog starts to salivate. Because before you'd pay ringing the bell with putting the food down there, you can just ring the bell and the dog thinks is food and starts to salivate. So we can train behaviour, even as adults, we're all Pavlov's dog, we see that email notification pop up. And even in a meeting, you want to have a little look, because you know, you've been well trained to look at that notification, and our children, all the beings and the beats, if they don't do it, then they get that FOMO that fear of missing out like oh, no, you know, the group chat will go on. And I won't know what the end joke was. And maybe they'll talk about me and I won't know what the secret is. And they won't share that picture and all that stuff so that our children are very well trained to respond to all the beeps and beings, which means that brains that are young and developing that need rest, and they need relaxation time they need time to think before they say which you and I got, we'd go home 'God I hate Mary, she's the worst person in the world'. But by tomorrow, you kind of got over it a bit. And you didn't say all the main things you'd plan to say to Mary on the bus, you know, our kids now just spew them out in a very unprocessed way. And that just causes the online space to be a very fraught emotional space for children.

Simon Currigan  9:51  

And I know that this is an issue that many schools and families are wrestling with right now. If you have a colleague or a friend who you think would benefit from I'm hearing this interview do them a massive favor, use the Share button in your podcast app to send them a direct link to this episode. That means they can hear these ideas and strategies because it might make a real difference to their people's safety and well being on the internet. And if you'd like to hear the full interview where Claire talks more about her website and her approach to teaching kids to be safe online, please head back to the original episode. That's number 33. And I'll put a direct link in the episode description. And if you found today's episode helpful, please take a moment to rate and review us It takes just 30 seconds. And when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend School Behavior Secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. Thanks for listening today and I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)