User Generated Education

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Why Social Media Education Is Needed In Schools

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Social media is an intimate part of a large majority of tweens’ and teens’ lives. The following graphs about teens’ social media use come from Pew Research’s Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015:

Presentation1

For young people, social media is not an add-on nor an extracurricular activity. Social media is like eating, bathing, talking. It is intertwined in everything they do. It is a part of their identity . . .

As teens, my peers and I feel the constant need to stay connected to everyone around us, and the main way of doing this is through apps like Instagram and Facebook. But social-media platforms have gotten so addictive that they slowly direct students’ attention away from schoolwork and toward the screen. When you’re in middle and high school, a lot depends on your status in social media. Where you fit into the large, seemingly mysterious network of school cliques is directly related to how many followers or friends you have online and how many “likes” you get on your social-media accounts. Getting a large amount of likes on a photo posted on Instagram or Facebook secures your status. It makes you feel important, popular, and well liked. Once students have a certain number of followers or likes, it’s easier for them to feel they have control or power socially. Someone who’s “popular” on social media can be incredibly intimidating. What they say goes. (My Favorite Teachers Use Social Media: A Student Perspective)

Some recent research shows some negative, even dire consequences of social media interactions on teens. There are some unique challenges for female teens on social media.

Perhaps the most problematic effect of social media is the fierce emphasis on physical appearance. “For many girls, the pressure to be considered ‘hot’ is felt on a nearly continual basis online,” writes Sales. “No one cares about being smart anymore. If you’re beautiful, everyone will love you.” What it all adds up to is summarized by a 16-year-old in Los Angeles: “Social media is destroying our lives.” “Then why not quit?” asks Sales. “Because then we would have no life,” replies another girl. (‘American Girls’ review: Nancy Jo Sales on social media’s effects)

There are parallels between sex education and social media education. Just say no doesn’t work for sex education as just don’t do it on social media won’t work for teens. Some may argue that social media education should be the role of parents. I agree but the problem is that parents may not know all of the ins and outs that exist with the continually evolving and changing world of social media.  As such, social media education should and does fall on the shoulders of educators. One of the goals for education is to provide students with skills for living their lives safely and productively now and in the future. This is in line with driver’s education, home economics, and other skills based classes where the intent is to teach teens skills for being safer in their everyday life. We know that teens and driving can be dangerous. Instead of banning it in schools, we attempt to teach them proper and safe driving practices . . . and driver’s education isn’t just talking about safe driving practices. The same is true with just being a talking head about social media. It needs to be modeled and used in the classroom so students get to experience “proper” social media uses.

We need to teach students about how to properly use and leverage social media. For many very good reasons, social media has been given a bad rap in the past few years. There have been far too many cases of cyberbullying with tragic results. However, social media is not going to go away. It is here to stay and we as educators have a responsibility to teach students how to use it properly. Instead of banning it from our classrooms, we need to embrace it and model the many great ways that it can be used. (Sylvia Duckworth in https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/pmate-ppmee.nsf/eng/wz02162.html)

Maybe it’s a pie in the sky dream filled with sparkles, rainbows, and unicorns to wish for the development of a national social media curriculum using concrete and relevant real world examples, but what we don’t need is more student guidelines written by school systems and parents who throw their hands up in the air and say they don’t know how to use social media. (Why We Need Social Media Curriculum in Schools)

Here are is a Scoop.it of aggregated resources to help with social media education: http://www.scoop.it/t/social-media-use-in-education

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 25, 2016 at 10:46 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks Jackie for your insightful reporting. Would you mind if I wanted to republish your work from time to time in our learning counsel newsletter and site? Cebron Walker, editor

    Cebron

    March 1, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    • Thanks, Cebron – all my work is Creative Commons so you can do so. I just ask for you to credit me.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      March 1, 2016 at 7:17 pm


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