Teaching Students How to Use Social Media
Social media is everywhere. It’s very popular among adults, but practically essential for preteens and teenagers who enjoy sharing their opinions and keeping up with their friends. The unfortunate truth is that the combination of kids and social media gets a horrible reputation because of certain behaviors in the relatively anonymous world of the Internet. But social networking can become a valuable tool for high school students. The key is teaching them to use it not just productively but also positively and politely, so they don't make choices that'll negatively affect their peers or their own futures.
Teaching Students How to Use Social Media Productively
Give Them the Resources
To teach students to use social media properly and respectfully, you have to first give them access. If the classrooms aren't wired for Internet connectivity, or if you need to make a change for widespread connectivity, start doing some research. This is especially important when you want to teach kids directly in the classroom.
You should do an independent DSL and cable comparison so you know which one is best for the classroom and within your school’s budget. You need to have a reliable, stable, and fast connection, because the last thing you want to encounter while teaching is a connection error that could lead to distracted and unengaged kids.
Another important thing you should do is teach them how to use social media in a technical sense. You could have an expert come in and explain how social media works, what hashtags mean, how they can use it to reach out to people, and stress the importance of using discretion and understanding different level of privacy. Many people are quick to assume that having the highest privacy setting are necessary, but this could lull students into a false sense of security. They should be taught early to treat everything they put on the internet as though it can be seen by anyone.
You could also set aside some time in the class period and dedicate it to utilizing social media in productive ways. There’s a variety of ways it can be used, such as getting help on homework. They could leave messages for other students regarding homework assignments or create discussions in regards to the assignments.
Start Teaching Social Media Etiquette
Social media is far-reaching. College recruiters may use it to vet a potential student, and HR directors may research Facebook or Twitter to make a decision about an applicant. In a way, nothing on a social networking site is fully private, so it's crucial to teach kids to act responsibly. Let them know that if they intend to act immature and be vulgar, then they should have a page devoted solely to their friends. Conversely, they should have a responsible “clean” page, available to the wider world.
In the same vein, but of perhaps even more importance, teach students that cyber bullying is in no way acceptable. Stress the need to act respectfully, politely, and responsibly around their peers. Too many tragedies occur when teenagers get bullied over social networking sites, in part because kids think that the Internet is an anonymous free-for-all, allowing them to get away with anything. They can't, and they need to know that.
Lead Them to Learning Opportunities
The key here is really to teach kids that social media is about more than simply playing games, spreading gossip, or even talking to their friends. Many teachers have discovered inventive ways of using social media as a learning tool for their students. To follow suit, there are interesting and fun activities to try:
- Ask Twitter users to use a hashtag that represents a topic discussed in class, such as a book, a theorem, or information learned by a guest lecturer.
- Encourage them to share projects and ideas over social media.
- Create a group for particular classes to facilitate friendly debates and the sharing of ideas, even after class is over.
- Get students to journal by writing a blog.
Encourage College Encounters
Social media is also a great way to get kids involved in their college futures. They can ask questions on the pages of the universities they want to attend, reach out to current students, or explore majors and course catalogs ahead of time. They can also use social media to discover what their admissions officers may want to know, or what they can do to make themselves look better on their college transcripts.
Get Them Involved in the Community
Reaching out and helping the community always looks good on college resumes. Students can form their own charity organizations or activities online. For instance, they can do something as simple as starting a “like” campaign on Facebook, where they can get sponsors to pledge money for every “like” received on a story, picture, or multimedia project, which can then go to a good cause.
By teaching students to use social media in a way that benefits them, they realize how to use it properly — and how they shouldn't use it.
Given the possible advantages, do you think it's a good idea to teach social media in schools?
Morgan Sims is a writer and a recent graduate who loves all thing tech and social media. Follow her @MorganSims00