Let me take a selfie…

Selfies:  a popular trend on social media at the moment.  I am unsure of the appeal of selfies and regularly find myself confronted by such images posted by some of my friends. Whenever I see a selfie posted these thoughts always run through my mind:

  • What is the attraction of posting images of yourself online?
  • Are you aware that when these images are published they are then accessible to anyone, one way or another?
  • Why do you post images of yourself online?
  • Is there a difference between posting a selfie of just yourself and posting one of you and a friend?
  • Are you seeking approval or acceptance?

I decided to ask a couple of 14 year old girls as to whether or not they thought selfies were cool.  Their response was interesting.  The girls said that solo selfies are no longer cool amongst their friends but group selfies are okay.  They went on to say that using filters to modify your appearance in these selfies is definitely not cool.  When I asked if there was an appropriate time to take a selfie they replied with: if you are somewhere interesting and in a group then yes.

This got me thinking about my own selfies.  I have only ever posted images of myself in group situations, when I am somewhere really interesting or if I am doing something I am very proud of.

So, my question is this: if the younger generation is starting to think of selfies as uncool then will this continue to be something that my generation clings to?  I know I have lots of friends that regularly post selfies, some even joke about how often they do it. Sometimes they make me cringe and other times they can be quite beautiful photos.

This brings me to a little light reading I did on the subject.  An article in the Courier Mail by Olympia Nelson (2013) titled Dark undercurrents of teenage girls’ selfies talks about how selfies have turned relationships into a sexual rat-race.  However, if the younger generation is starting to feel that selfies are no longer cool, then whose relationships are these selfies actually damaging, and is this a problem that our young people face or is it something that my generation will cling to?

I certainly think that the song Let me take a selfie certainly helps to support the argument that selfies are something that my generation regularly participate in.  Perhaps there is still hope!

It’s my life

Young people are living their lives in public at an alarming growth rate today.  As a young teacher in school ranging from prep to year 12 in Brisbane, I am regularly asked by students of all ages what types of social media I interact with and if they can send me friend requests.  This increase in use of social media by young people is increasingly alarming due to the fact that many, in my opinion, are unaware of the consequences of using such medias inappropriately. Whilst students in the primary years are often denied the use of Facebook and Twitter, some are allowed limited access to sites such as Instagram.  These students often go out of their way to use these sites due to the nature of it being seen as “cool” to own and use one.  Students in older years are regularly using Facebook and Twitter, as well as Tumblr, Instagram and Pintrest.  Upon asking students how they use these sites it was revealed that their use is not monitored and parents and/or guardians are regularly unaware of how their children are interacting with these sites.  I personally find this alarming due to the fact that students that aren’t educated in the proper use of such sites and therefore, can cause harm to themselves and others.

social-media-400854_640

Pixabay. License: CC0 Public Domain

Studies completed in America have shown that approximately 90% of the youth in the USA use social media sites.  One of these studies was conducted by Common Sense Media, called “Social media, social life:  How teens view their digital lives” (2012). This study was conducted by interviewing a variety of students, aged 13 to 17 across America. As the title suggests, questions regarding teenage use of social media and its impact on their lives were investigated and reflected upon.  These questions included:

Social Media, Social Life Questions

Common Sense Media (2012), p.7

As the study states:

This generation is the first to have gone through their entire teen years with Facebook and other social networking sites at their fingertips.  This [study] documents, on a national scale, what these ‘social media natives’ think about how social media use is affecting their social and emotional lives (Common Sense Media, 2012, p.7).

Data collected from the study states that 90% of the students used social media of some description.  However, only 49% of the students preferred communicating in person, with an alarming 33% preferring to communicate via text.  This representation of data is quite alarming to me because students are seemingly increasingly more confident with communicating via text rather than in person.

There is, however, some hope.  Students were also asked how they felt when their friends were texting or using social media in their presence and how they would feel if the world rewound to a time before Facebook.  The results are displayed below in a graph:

Desire to unplug

Common Sense Media, (2012). p.12

Although the percentages may be small, the fact that some students “desire to unplug” and be rid of Facebook gives me hope.

In terms of the students at my school and how they use these social media sites, the school has taken it upon themselves to become a Cyber Smart school.  A committee has been formed that includes representatives from all aspects of the school.  This committee discusses ways in which the school can educate students from all year levels in the appropriate use of social media, how to be safe and how to report cyber bullying if it occurs.  Although this is a small step, the school has embraced the fact that students do use social media and that for them to remain safe, they need to be educated in this.

Australian Government, (2014).

Australian Government, (2014).

In terms of the students in my classroom, I am regularly showing them ways to “unplug” and enjoy a screen free environment.  We discuss books, games, sports and places they can go with their friends.  I regularly challenge them to go outside and explore, and often hear reports of adventures had in parks or shops with friends.

One of my recent challenges to my class was the My Grateful Story.  It involved the students taking a photo of something they are grateful for in their life. It could not be anything technology related.  The resulting photos that were submitted where then placed in a PowerPoint and showed to the parents.  There were some amazing moments of self-discovery through this challenge and all of my students reportedly enjoyed exploring and reflecting upon the things they are grateful for outside of technology.

mygratefulstory-website-3

My Grateful Story, 2014

I think it is incredibly important for students to realize that there is time for living in both the real and digital world, and that embracing and being smart in both leads to a better life.