Well I have begun researching for my Major Project for EDL 820, where I am developing a presentation for high school students to positively influence their personal device usage in school and at home. I chose the issue of digital citizenship, specifically handheld devices, because they are so prevalent in our classrooms, and with our students, that it seems very important to confront and educate around technology if we would like it to ultimately have positive “impacts [on] their [students] health and wellbeing.” ( Pg 17 - Status of Mind: Social media and young people’s mental health by RSPH). One of my largest tasks is going to be narrowing down such a large topic to present and have an impact in a 15 minute time span available for presenting to grade groups in advisory. I am hoping to model it somewhat after the shorter TedTalks that have become ever popular online, in fact it may even make sense to record the presentation and share it much like a TedTalk online!
I won’t discuss too much of my research as it would not be the most exciting read but I have narrowed it down into topics thus far which include: screen time effects, addiction, digital citizenship, and limiting device usage. One of the most engaging and informative reports I found is the one I quoted above called Status of Mind: Social media and young people’s mental health by the Royal Society for Public Health which comes from the United Kingdom. I will be exploring and summarizing this resource for the remainder of the blog so as to provide an overview of what it offers and presents. I highly recommend checking it out, as I found it a very educational read as I will summarize in the following paragraphs.
In the foreword of the report they establish the importance of how looking at the effects of social media and its effect on our health, and well-being, especially “digital-natives” or young people, should be at the forefront of public health as it is an integral part of modern society. The RSPH also asserts that “we must therefore strive to understand its impact on mental health, and especially the mental health of the younger population. The highest incidence of social media use is seen amongst those aged 16 – 24. That these years are a crucial period for emotional and psychosocial development only enforces the need for greater understanding of social media’s impact.” We should also be aware that social media can have positive effects providing support and greater connections at the cost of increased risk of social mental health issues.
The report describes how many of the youth today have never known a world without the internet or social media, this fundamentally affects their view of reality (worldview) and self, whereas previous generations may have a personal identity and online identity that are separate, most modern youth see these identities as one and the same (also discussed on Pg 9 - Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools). The RSPH also references that “social media being ... more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol… [and] the platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis.” (Pg 6) The report moves on the state the potential negative effects of social media on mental health are [increased] anxiety and depression, [lack of] sleep, [poor] body image, cyber-bullying, and Fear of Missing Out (FoMO). I have really noticed that all of these negative impacts are very prevalent in our schools, with mental health issues seemingly skyrocketing. It is quite common in one classroom to see all these concepts displayed where a handful students have anxiety or depression, many are bullied online, they have a skewed view of their body and reflected in what others say, many are tired or missing classes in the morning, with jealousy and envy being very common based on what students see others having or doing online. The RSPH then highlight some of the potential positives of social media which include access to positive health experiences, emotional support and community building, positive self expression and self identity, and increased positive relationships which seems to be how many more mature users of social media interpret how and why these platforms exist.
The next section of the report, I found to be one of the most interesting, whereby they look at the most commonly used social platforms (Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram) and rated each based on 14 indicators (Pg 17) of health and well-being to see if each application has a net positive or net negative effect on users (specifically youth) mental health. The results are very interesting and very beautifully displayed on Pg 18 to 23 of the report, I have shown (below) just the most positive (YouTube) and most negative (Instagram) social media charts here that also abbreviate the 14 indicators used in the survey. Even myself as a very light user of Facebook and Instagram really stopped to think about what these social media outlets were really offering me and whether there effect was positive or negative on my life and mental state. I also use YouTube in many instances to learn skills and support my teaching, but would agree that it is the most positive of the popular networking sites I use consistently.
The report finishes with seven recommendations highlighted below. I have included a personal commentary in italics after each recommendation by the RSPH:
i) Introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media.
I am very glad to have come across this study and report as I really think it gives me some strong understandings and insights to move forward with in developing my presentation to make young people and staff in schools more aware of their usage of personal devices, with the effects of this being either potentially positive or negative depending on how and with what platforms are being consistently used.