‘Life in Likes’: our approach to protecting today’s children from the social media revolution

Written by Graeme Whiting

In this week’s national news it was widely stated that educationists are clutching at straws to try to contrive ways of educating young children to use the Internet and social media safely, and protect them from the anxieties that develop all-too-often in this age of ‘chasing likes’ and online social validation.

What a huge shame it is for these poor children that their social groups are dominated by this modern-day issue, to the point that they feel unable to disconnect because it will be seen as socially damaging. It is, therefore, of vital importance that these young children, who have already embarked on their Internet and social media journey, are safeguarded against the associated dangers and negative side-effects that are so widely published in the press. Schools, policy makers, and parents, will work valiantly to develop programmes that educate children in ways to protect themselves against this ever-increasing risk, with the wellbeing of the children at the centre, and I commend them for this.

At The Acorn School we, with the support of our parents, have taken a different approach to this problem in an attempt to protect our children from these online social pressures and risks, and give them the opportunity to grow up in an environment where they can enjoy being children without having to be shaped to make adult-like decisions to keep themselves safe online. Our children enjoy their formative years without the encumbrance of cyber, social media, computer games and smartphones. Instead, they spend these years enjoying face-to-face social interactions, playing with their friends, cultivating their imagination, enjoying free-play and the great outdoors, learning in a technology-free, safe, and low-pressure environment and, most importantly, they spend these years happy and free from the anxieties associated with social media. As our children grow to be teenagers they develop the maturity, confidence and skills that enable them to enter the online world and use it for all its good, whilst understanding and showing resilience to its many negatives.

I wish to offer my gratitude to the parents of my school who have unanimously upheld my ‘no cyber for young children’ requests, which have been a vital part of building our vibrant community of forward thinking, like-minded individuals. Together we have created an environment where our children can breathe, play, enjoy their education, and develop socially, academically and physically in their child-centred and cyber-free social life until such time as they are both old enough and wise enough to deal with the ups and the downs of the electronic world. My only regret is that such an environment can’t simply be rolled out to children of the wider world.

Graeme Whiting