Is It Time to Teach Social Media in Schools?

The recent suspension of 13 students from the School of Dentistry at the Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, shed a nasty light on a well respected Canadian university. Nearly 200Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.54.19 PM years of history tarnished by the mysoginistic conversation by a bunch of 4th year University students on Facebook. While it highlighted some significant issues around student relationships and professionalism, there was also a glaring issue that stood out; neither the school or the students truly understand Social Media.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

Changing School Attitudes

When you talk about Social Media in a Middle or High School, most people’s thoughts will jump to issues around cyber-bullying. That would be because the discussion about the medium doesn’t start until the cyber-bullying issue pops up. When it does happen, schools will start to bring in a series of experts to talk about Social Media safety and cyber-bullying and, after a short period of time, the schools will sit quietly behind their Social Media and Cyber-Bullying policy and hope that the issue doesn’t pop up, again. Of course it will, but denial is part of the game.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

Social Media Isn’t the Problem

The complaint about Social Media, from parents, teachers and administrators, is that Social Media is a distraction. It is destroying our youth’s ability to interact on a personal level. It is even being attributed to an increasing issue in kids posture, with the bent heads staring at their mobile devices. So why is the solution to ignore and deny access? Some schools are simply throwing up their hands and allowing the devices in the classroom, but telling the students to stay off them. Some parents get upset that they cannot get a hold of their kids, on their cell phones, but then lose their minds when they find out what their kids have been up to, on those same devices.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

The answer, of course, is a resounding “Yes!”.

What Can Change?

The fact is that what kids are doing, today, is no different from what we did, when we were their age, back in the day. Rather than texting, we were passing notes. Rather than sneaking a peek at the latest post on the platform of the day, we were reading comic books or magazines in front of our history books. While we were hiding under the covers, reading a comic book, b7f8b2256782b4d2f09b286ce782c6e0rather than sleeping, they are under the covers, chatting with their friends. Kids haven’t changed. The content, medium and scale have changed.

While some think the answer is to deny kids access to Social Media and the technology, the truth is that this action will be more damaging than helpful. The largest and most prolific Social Network is not even online. It’s school. So denying kids access to the most popular means of communicating in that Social Network, essentially leaves them out in the boonies of the Social conversation. Wouldn’t it be better to bring Social Media education into the picture, to teach the safe and proper use of it?

What advantage would there be? There’s more than a few;

1. Teaching the Teachers. Teachers are a smart group. Not only would they learn how to make sure that their students are using their devices and Social Media apps safely and responsibly, they would probably also figure out ways to integrate them into their education planning.

2. Kids Become More Than Cyber Savvy. Kids can figure out how to use a piece of technology, or an app, in no time. Couple that enthusiasm with education on the safe operation, protecting them from predators and thieves and you have children who are actively involved in their own protection.

3. What They Learn in School, They Take With Them. There is a reason that we teach things like algebra and calculus in school. To prepare kids for University. With the recent incident at Dalhousie, wouldn’t Social Media education be another useful tool in their suitcase?

4. Cyber-Smarts Spread. Remember, schools are the original Social Network and what is learned there is spread through that network. Once they leave the education system, they take that knowledge and spread it around as young professionals. Those Cyber-Smart kids become Cyber-Smart Adults.

If we are learning anything, today, it’s that the same Social Media problems are continuing to crop up in our education system and in the business world. Perhaps it is time to start fixing the problems before they become problems.

 

 

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in ThatSocialMediaGuy.com, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. Sean has been active on Social Media platforms, since joining LinkedIn in 2005. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, instructed at workshops, been a guest and keynote speaker at various conferences, has been working as the tech/start-up author for Steamfeed.com and has recently become the Editor of the Social Media Camp Blog.

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