School News & Blog

October 25, 2018

Social Media and Me – Helpful or Harmful?

Earlier this year, SOTE’s Grade 12 students gave a talk to
the Combined Parents Meeting on the topic of “Social Media and Me – Helpful or

The students engaged enthusiastically with the topic, with
many addressing both sides of the argument. Between them, the students provided
a range of viewpoints which were interesting and useful for the parents to
hear. Their talks showed that they are very aware of recent events such as the
Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s
subsequent ten-hour grilling by the US Senate. The students are also aware of
the use of social media by online bullies. It became clear during the session
that the Year 12s had learned new information about social platforms as they
were preparing their individual talks.

For example, James Fern expressed surprise at the length of
time it took for Zuckerberg to give his testimony to the US Senate on
Facebook’s entanglement with Cambridge Analytica, but was heartened by
Facebook’s commitment to making changes to its platform in response to users’
concerns about their data security and privacy. James also referenced the
extent to which Facebook can track the web browsing habits of its users, even
when its users surf away from the Facebook site.

Amelia McLaren told parents and teachers that social media
(and other communications apps that are used on mobile devices) is a crucial
communications channel for older teenagers, especially during school holidays,
and as teens start to want to make their own, parent-free, arrangements for
meeting their friends. Amelia also spoke about contracts such as the “Family
Cell Phone Agreement”, stating that some of the rules in such contracts may negatively
impact the development of trust between parents and teens, and the ability for
teens to develop self-control over their technology use. However she did
concede that some of the rules in the contract would be useful in preventing
the harmful use of social media. In summing up, Amelia said that while social
media is not “the safest place on earth”, it is already ingrained into society,
and teens risk missing out if they don’t have a social media presence. She also
added that social media can be helpful if used in the right way, but it is also
up to parents to provide guidance.
An alternative viewpoint was expressed by Maddie Williment,
a self-professed non-user of social media, who said that nothing is perfect,
and social media is no exception. Based on her research, Maddie said that while
social media unfortunately does provide a platform for negativity and harm, it
can also be used productively as a tool for people to connect with each other
in a positive way.
Similarly, Thomas Fern put forward a positive view on social
media, despite – or perhaps because – he has had limited exposure to social
media, using YouTube to access a number of educational channels, and Facebook
(with his brother James) to promote their musical duo, Fern Brothers Music. Thomas
said that social media can also help users to “be educated, promoted,
interconnected, identified” and is a platform that allows people to “explore
and be creative”.
Seth Thornton provided parents with an overview of four popular
social media, messaging and content sharing platforms – Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat – and how these are typically used by teens,
for good and bad. He concluded by saying that social media can be helpful, but
users need to exercise caution and common sense, and to be aware of what they
are sharing or messages that they are sending and again, emphasizing that
parents also have a role to play in educating their kids about safe use of
social media.
Max Grayson and Brendan Yates listed a few of the potential
harmful uses of social media, such as the ability for it to be addictive,
cyber-bullying, and the sharing of content which perhaps should not be shared.
But they also pointed out some benefits of social media, such as enabling
people to more easily maintain friendships even when they are in different
Overall, the talks were well-received by parents, and the
students are to be commended for the work they put into researching and
presenting on this topic.