Aotea College students ABBY McROBERTS and EMILY PATERSON say switching off the internet will not resolve problems faced by young people.
Social media has the power to educate and unite people, but can be undeniably brutal. Young people know first-hand how cruel the world of social media can be. We’ve probably all been witness or victim to internet trolls and have seen how keyboard warriors can make us feel small as they hide behind a screen. As much as we may want these problems to disappear, we think banning social media is a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a much more complex issue.
It is an archaic idea that switching off the internet or restricting our access will solve the problems we encounter online. The cyberworld does not cease to exist when we turn off the internet, therefore the problems young people face online are only ignored, not resolved, when access is restricted. We may not be able to see the mean messages or post, but that does not ‘delete’ the intent it was written with or the hurt it has caused. The root of these problems is the actions taken online, not the platforms they’re carried out on.
Putting a blanket ban on social media disregards a young person’s agency to make their own decisions around their online presence. It sends a message that we don’t know what’s best for us and that we don’t have the ability to control what we do online. A ban misses an opportunity to help us develop personal agency and to teach us how we can use social media in a positive and responsible way.
“Adults should instead encourage conversations about positive social media usage.”
Discussing things such as how we can protect our privacy, how to get help if we feel unsafe and how to recognise situations when we should avoid social media. Keeping these conversations open and free of judgement would take away any feeling of shame or need for secrecy in what we do online. We then know we have trusted adults we can reach out to if we find ourselves in trouble.
We often hear adults discussing how they can’t imagine being a teenager in today’s world, with the internet and social media. The best way to imagine what this is like is to ask young people. For today’s teens, learning to navigate the world of social media is just another stepping stone in adolescence. Restricting online access is restricting the possibilities for young people and adults to learn from each other and work together to ensure our online presence is positive and safe.