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Another Voice: Students need to be educated on perils of social media

By Ronna Glickman

As a former middle level teacher with 25 years’ experience and now a speaker and consultant for social media safety, I was aghast about the recent news article and study citing fears about smartphones. The real fear is the fiction in the article.

Too much time on smartphones is responsible for increased anxiety, depression and drama. Speaking at schools across the nation, I go right to the source: the students.

Admitting to the habitual scrolling through their phones, comparing their lives to others, FOMO (fear of missing out) and self-harm, cannot be good for one’s mental health. This can exacerbate a pre-existing mental health concern.

Another source: Talk to any administrator, teacher or guidance counselor dealing with student behavior. They say 85% of their time is devoted to comments on social media (drama). As one administrator recently said, “Take away the phones and there would be very few discipline issues.”

Ask a teacher whose school allows for phones in the classroom and they will tell you what a distraction to teaching (and learning) it has become.

Although I do not have the three letters Ph.D. after my name, I do have the utmost respect for those who do. However, according to the article, “the two psychology professors combed through 40 studies ... ” I believe in primary sources, so I advise going to the students. Ask how smartphones are affecting their lives. For years I asked my students to anonymously write down advice to someone about wanting to get social media/and or tell them how it has affected their lives.

Not one student said it improved their lives. In fact, most wish they had never had social media and the drama associated with it.

When speaking to kids across the grades, I am stunned how much many of them don’t know, such as: sleeping with their phones under their pillow can overheat and cause a fire; the possible link between cellphone radiation and cancer; what they are agreeing to when checking the “I agree” box on a social media site; how their current online behavior will affect their future; and the enormity of danger from predators when children sext. My most important educational tip is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The internet, social media and FaceTime are awesome – when used responsibly. As I inform parents, social media and phones are part of their child’s world. ‘Part’ being the key word, not their whole world.

Set limits on how long they are online, charge their phones in YOUR room at night and check every keystroke they are making. In some cases it’s a matter of life or death.

Ronna Glickman, of East Amherst, is a speaker, educator and consultant on social media safety.

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