Christian Miraglia, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, has some great ideas on teaching kids about Social Media Awareness:
Over the last decade, there has been pressure in the K-12 learning environment to create classes that address everything from managing your money to various efforts to address cultural inequalities. The problem with including these classes, which all have good intentions, is that there is not enough time to address these subjects without taking away from core subjects. However, with the continued issue of social media’s influence on our teens, I think it is time to address this, especially in light of the recent massacre in Uvalde. The shooter was a user of Yubo and had posted threatening messages on the platform. I am sure that many teachers and parents have never heard of Yubo, which creates a problem in itself. Since the problem is complex, there are no simple solutions, but in light of what we see as educators, it is time to address the problem of social media use by our children in an educational setting.
Teachers understand the influence social media has had on students. In a recent article in the publication EdSurge, teacher Tyler Rablin lamented on losing battle with students’ cellphone use in schools. He conveyed his frustration with having students distracted by social media alerts and viewing videos as he tried to teach. I experienced the same in my years in the classroom. Whether it was text messages or videos, I encountered daily disruptions to my teaching, no matter what measure I took. Rabin’s solution was to ban cell phone usage. I applaud him in this endeavor, but I also think that students must be made formally aware of the influence of social media.
Parents also want to see changes. In a 2021 study by McAfee, the cyber security software company, over three-quarters of American parents wished schools would do more to educate their children about online safety. Cyberbullying statistics provided by the government from 2019 indicate that sixteen percent of high school students report being cyberbullied. Having worked at the intermediate school level, I can say incidents of cyberbullying may be parallel. Parents need to be involved in the educational process as well, and some schools are making efforts to provide parent classes on cyberbullying and internet safety.
Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, our students are falling prey to the addictive nature of social media and phone usage. I think it is time for a class on social media that includes its dangers to be put into the curriculum. However, I want to clarify that I, like many educators, have found creative ways to use social media with my students. I see the need for these continued efforts, but there must be an awareness that goes beyond the cursory warning from parents or even on television. If you grew up in the latter part of the 20th century, you remember the drug and alcohol education classes students took. Although not consistently effective, there was an awareness of the dangers of these substances. Now that our students are fully immersed in social media from a young age but genuinely unaware of its effects.
What might this curriculum look like? Common Sense Media has short lessons that explore topics from cyberbullying to civil discourse. These lessons, which are short in length, can lead to deeper discussions and be done so that students are not shamed about social media use. The lessons address students from 6th grade through 12th grade. Having used the content myself while teaching an elective technology class, I found them effective and eliciting necessary discussions about cyber safety. However, I believe that every student should be exposed to some type of direct instruction on the topic. Moreover, it should begin at the elementary level, as many students 8-12 increasingly use social media sites (Common Sense Census 2021). Using the many resources that are available for cyber education schools can have an impact on students, which may prevent further tragedies.
Christian Miraglia is a recently retired 36-year educator and now Educational Technology Consultant at t4edtech where he also blogs at Edtech and Things Related. He can be found on Twitter @T4edtech, Linkedin, and on his YouTube Channel Transformative Edtech.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.