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As Ontario school boards initiate a $4 billion lawsuit against major social media companies, claiming that their platforms have negatively impacted the way children think, behave, and learn, University of Regina professor Alec Couros, an expert in educational technology media, supports these concerns. He emphasizes how social media use can lead to cyberbullying, affecting students’ mental health and academic performance. Despite these negative effects, Couros acknowledges the positive aspects of social media as well, such as providing a sense of belonging for marginalized students who may not feel accepted in traditional school settings.

Teenagers like Payton Desjarlais and Creedance Caisse share their own experiences with social media, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of their online interactions. While Desjarlais acknowledges the presence of inappropriate content on social media, he also appreciates the ability to connect with others and establish relationships. Caisse describes her relationship with social media as ‘rocky,’ expressing moments of love and hate towards the platform. However, she believes that social media has played a significant role in shaping her personality and helping her differentiate between right and wrong behaviors.

Couros points out that the issue of social media’s impact on students goes beyond the classroom and involves parental responsibility as well. He notes that parents may allow their children unlimited access to social media at home, leading to challenges when schools try to regulate its usage. Couros emphasizes the need for better legislation from social media companies regarding age restrictions, as well as improved parenting techniques and responsible student behavior. He believes that addressing these issues requires a collective effort from parents, educators, and policymakers to ensure a healthier relationship with social media for children.

The lawsuit against social media companies by Ontario school boards is seen by Couros as part of a larger societal problem that requires attention and action. He raises concerns about the constant distraction social media poses to students, making it difficult for them to focus on academic tasks and maintain offline relationships. Couros calls for a more thoughtful approach to addressing these challenges, recognizing that schools cannot monitor students’ social media usage 24/7. He stresses the importance of developing better strategies for managing screen time and promoting digital literacy among students to mitigate the negative effects of social media on their well-being.

Overall, the debate surrounding social media’s impact on students is a complex issue that involves multiple stakeholders, including schools, parents, and social media companies. While there are undeniable drawbacks to excessive social media use, such as cyberbullying and distraction, there are also benefits in terms of connectivity and community building for marginalized students. Couros advocates for a more nuanced approach to addressing these concerns, including age-appropriate regulations, effective parenting techniques, and responsible online behavior. By working together, stakeholders can create a more positive and mindful relationship with social media for children and teenagers in the digital age.

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