Social Media in Education

It is part of our lives.

We see it, every day. In the news, on our devices, in conversations with family and friends. We communicate with it. We share our lives, our passions, our anger and our sadness on it. It grows more, every day. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built around serving it to us, in every possible way, shape and form. If you are in business and not using, many say it is only a matter of time before your business will be a memory.

So, with all of this in mind, why is Social Media still not being taught or embraced in our schools? The government, which funds education, understands how vital Social Media is in its communication with the public. School Districts have embraced the medium as a means to keep parents and kids informed. Colleges and Universities are starting to integrate Social Media education into various existing programs, with some colleges even offering entire programs based on being professional Social Media Marketers and Managers. So, again, I ask; why is it not being taught to our kids?

But, Don’t Kids Already Know?

The first reason, one could surmise, is that kids already know how to use Social Media. This is true, in the sense that a teen can drive a car because he/she figured out how to put a key into the ignition, put their foot on the gas, turn the steering wheel and maybe even use the brake. Some might even be able to turn the lights on at night and use the bluetooth features on the stereo. This does not, however, mean that they actually KNOW how to drive a car. They still don’t know all the the safety features of the car, nor do they know the rules of the road. Those come with training, testing and practice. We make them learn about these rules of the road and how to navigate them safely, because not doing so makes them a danger to themselves and others.

The same could be said of Social Media. One bad decision, one bad post, one bad turn on the Internet and their life, or the life of someone else, could be damaged. Unlike a car, though, that damage could be repaired, only to suddenly happen again…..because the Internet never forgets.

Age Is Everything

I was at a restaurant, not too long ago, and I watched as a little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, took dozens of pictures of her desert…..and posted them to Instagram. Beyond the fact that you must be, according to Instagram, 13-years-old before you can get an account, I was looking at the parents as they chatted and admired the pictures she was posting. I had to think, to myself, “I wonder if they know about the other stuff she might be posting?”.

It is well known and understood that most kids know more about technology than their parents do. There in lies the problem. Just because they know more than you, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to what they are doing, where they are doing it and what (or who) they are doing it with. With more and more kids getting smart phones and mobile devices, at younger and younger ages, it is important for the parents to understand an monitor what their children are doing online. Which leads us to the next problem.

The Digital Hallway

Johnny and Jenny are not with Mom and Dad, all day. For a dozen years, a big chunk of their days, from September through June, is spent in a space where they learn the essentials of life. How to read, write, add, subtract and how to incorporate those into more learning. While learning Shakespeare or how to mix chemical A with compound B is interesting, they are not things that they (the kids) would employ everyday. Social Media, on the other hand, incorporates all of those core pieces, and much, much, more.

We would never think about allowing our children to speak to strangers that we have never met. We would never allow out children to leaf through a pornographic magazine or go to an R Rated movie until the were old enough. Yet we allow it everyday that we do not pay attention to where they are and what they are doing online. We also want them to explore and discover the world around them, where it be learning a new skill or expanding their knowledge about something they are passionate about. So, with this library and positive content available, why not add it as a tool in the mix of the daily curriculum consumed. Why just read Shakespeare when and interactive interpretation is available. Why just guess at what the outcome of mixing compound A with compound B, when there is a entertaining video to show you the outcome. Why learn how to write an old school style resume on the word processor, when there is a step-by-step version online, that allows you to update at a moments notice and add rich media image and video to enhance your introduction to a new employer.

We are the guides and mentors of our children and students, but we need to be in both their offline AND online lives, if we are going to be successful guides and mentors.

Visit The Digital Hallway to learn more and download The DH Podcasts from iTunes, starting in September 2017