Growing up in the social media age is doing more harm than good, according to a school counsellor on the northeast Avalon. Boyd Perry said having access to a limitless world of information can be beneficial to learning, but many young kids are not equipped to handle the flood of information they are getting through their screens.
"Young people have more access and more information. We automatically think that's a good thing," said Perry.
"They aren't yet ready … to develop a critical way of analyzing the information they are getting."
During CBC's education forum, Inside the Classroom, featuring 30 educators from across the province, several teachers and counsellors raised issues about social media, video games, and their impact on student behaviors.
"A lot of the problems we have in school are because of social media," said Joe Santos, a high school teacher on the northeast Avalon.
"There's very few students now in schools that don't have some kind of device they can communicate with."
Students are speaking behind each other's backs and sometimes making sinister plans in total silence — out of earshot from intervening teachers.
Santos said some of the issues they've encountered range from settling scores with violence, to making drug deals, all arranged quietly through the use of cell phones in school.
Technology raised concerns with other teachers as well, who spoke of students coming to class zonked after long nights of video gaming.
"They're too tired to learn," said Kimberly Fifield, an elementary school teacher on the northeast Avalon.
"They could fall asleep in class, they could become agitated, they're more irritable. They're just unable to focus on what you're trying to teach them in the run of a day."
According to Santos, attendance rates go down after the release of a highly anticipated video game, as his students stay up all night to finish the game. The long hours spent playing video games, sometimes graphic and violent, can have an impact over time, said Angela Wilmott, a school counsellor in central Newfoundland.
"If you're role playing war games for hours every day, it has an impact in how your brain is working and how you're dealing with stress and anxiety," she said.
While there is some scientific debate over the impact of video game addiction, several studies have linked playing for excessive hours with issues like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder. Whether gaming is causing the disorders, or is simply an outlet for kids with those disorders, is unproven.
Video games could also be partially responsible for the language kids are using, Wilmott said. Kids play interactive games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, where their online teammates and opponents could be adults. Wilmott said she worries about the kids being exposed to vulgar language through those interactions.
"That's becoming much more common," she said.
"To see that now in primary, elementary… Where are those kids going to be in Grade 11?"
It's a question Perry also ponders, as he sees students at his school being consumed by technology.
"We see that shift [to the social media age] and think they are so much more exposed to things, but they are not ready to handle the sorts of things they are exposed to," he said.
I think many parents are in agreement that the information and technology over-load our kids are subject to has as many negative as positive influences. It may confuse and skew children's judgement when they don't have the time necessary to process and absorb information at their own pace. Most of the video games are too mature or violent and take children too far away from reality while they play. I think they can confuse or mingle the real world with the cyber world. I also feel we are stealing some of their childhood by not letting them just be kids for the brief time they are allotted. By flooding their minds with adult information are we not stealing the wonder and magic of being a child and the wonder of self discovery???