Chaplain's thought for the week

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Chaplain's thought for the week

Revd Tom reflects on social media in the lives of young people

Tim Berners-Lee famously tweeted “This is for everyone” about his invention of the World Wide Web in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. The thing about the invention of the internet, is that once it’s out there, you can’t un-invent it. We can’t now go back to living in the world which most of us parents and teachers experienced as children. Like Pandora’s box, once opened, we can’t shut the lid on it.

All of our pupils, born after 1995, are part of the iGeneration: they’ve grown up with the internet as part of their daily lives, they can find their way around a touch screen device better than most adults, and are likely to have an Instagram page before they start the Sixth Form (or whatever the new the platform may be by the time they get there).

While the internet is truly amazing and brings so many remarkable benefits to humankind, there are, of course, dangers – and perhaps the biggest danger is that it leads to massive changes in the way we interact with other people. One recent survey asked teens how happy they felt generally, alongside asking them to report how they spent their leisure time. What was really obvious from the survey is the fact that those who spent less time on social media were happier than those who spent more. This should lead us to reflect: how does online communication affect young people? I’m asking pupils to pause and consider whether interaction on social media leads to greater joy, peace, and happiness in their lives… or less.

I recently read in a BBC article of another piece of research which suggested that two thirds of schoolchildren wouldn’t mind if social media had never been invented. We can’t turn the clock back and do that – indeed, most of us wouldn’t want to – but as technology progresses rapidly each year, we need to think about good use of it in the digital age.

There are no easy answers, but teachers and parents must consider these issues. The world continues to change fast: we need to communicate with our young people about that and listen carefully to the ways in which it affects them. The internet is for everyone, and it’s here to stay. Let’s use it wisely.