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Why students harmed by addictive social media need more than cellphone bans, surveillance

Written by on June 3, 2024

Recently, five school boards in Ontario filed a lawsuit against the major social media platforms: Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

Their lawsuit notes that these platforms are designed to be addictive and have caused all kinds of problems for the education system. It asserts that social media causes children to suffer from mental health issues and increases distraction, social withdrawal and cyberbullying, as well as causes damage and disruption to the classroom, putting all kinds of new burdens on teachers who are already dealing with shrinking budgets and increased class sizes.

The $4,5 billion lawsuit follows over 200 lawsuits by school boards in the United States in the past year against the same companies, making similar claims.

This week, the Ontario government, which has called the Canadian lawsuit a waste of time and money, announced it was doubling down on its 2019 ban on cellphones in schools as a way to address the problem.

But is a ban the answer to the impact of technology we know is incredibly pervasive, addictive and harmful? Not to mention, often racist?

Research shows technologies are not neutral: They’re embedded with and actively reinforce structures of racism. A survey of Canadian children in grades 7 to 11 found nearly half of participants reported seeing racist or sexist content online, and youths from marginalised groups were more likely than others to encounter this type of content. So, what’s to be done?

Experts say major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok have caused young people to suffer from mental health issues.

On the ‘Don’t Call Me Resilient’ podcast earlier last month, two scholars and former teachers looked at the intersection of race, technology and education. They said social media has become part of who we are and it’s not going anywhere.

Instead of trying to ban it and monitoring students to make sure they adhere to the ban, schools should focus on improving digital media literacy and critical thinking – for students and their teachers.

“How can we effectively use [the cellphone] within the classroom? It could be a research tool… it could be a pedagogical tool to teach and to do different things. With the money that is put towards these surveillance measures and put towards these forms of punitive decisions… it really begs the question of whether or not we’re really concerned about students or are we just finding ways to maintain a status quo of control…” said Toronto Metropolitan University assistant professor Kisha McPherson.

– The Conversation

The post Why students harmed by addictive social media need more than cellphone bans, surveillance appeared first on The Namibian.

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