Impact of Social Media on Schools
The first ever email was sent in 1971, but it wasn’t really until 2002, with the creation of websites like Friendster, that social media really began to impact society. This ability to communicate online has led to impressive developments, and it can be a powerful tool for learning.
Overall, schools have been slow to adopt this new technology for educational purposes, but the popularity of social media makes it almost impossible to ignore. Facebook has over a billion registered users, and YouTube attracts over one billion unique visitors each month. There is growing interest among teachers to use social media to help their students, but the question is how they should do this.
Concerns Regarding Social Media in Schools
One of the main reasons for why schools have been cautious about making use of social media is that there are potential dangers. Some of the main concerns regarding this form of online communication include:
• Children may be at risk of cyberbullying.
• A great deal of this type of communication could be considered time-wasting.
• A high proportion of the content spread via social media is unreliable.
• Students may be at risk from online predators.
• Teachers may feel that they have not received adequate training for using social media safely.
• It can be a distraction
• It may involve material that is objectionable or even illegal.
Best Practice for Using Social Media in Schools
Schools can certainly benefit from adapting social media to suit their needs, but for this to occur safely and effectively there needs to be some form of guidance – a guide to best practice. This might include a list of do’s and don’ts such as:
• Do keep up-to-date with social media developments.
• Do use safety protocols to protect students from cyberbullying and online predators.
• Do use filters so that students can benefit from social media without the risks.
• Do take an interest in the views and opinions of students in regards to social media.
• Do discourage students from wasting time unproductively on social media sites when they should be learning.
• Do view social media as fun as well as potentially educational.
• Do consider all the different ways that this platform for communication can benefit your school and students.
• Do use social media to interact with parents
• Do learn how to use privacy settings on social media websites like Facebook
• Don’t be afraid to admit that you are unfamiliar with using social media.
• Don’t believe that social media is a fad that is going away soon.
• Don’t view social media as a substitute for traditional classroom methodology but instead view it as an extra resource.
• Don’t just focus on the positive aspects of this form of communication because there are dangers that need to be faced.
• Don’t divert valuable classroom time to engaging in social media unless this can be justified.
• Don’t expect students to be able to stay out of trouble online – they will usually need guidance and protection.
• Don’t encourage students to engage in any social media interactions that could have a negative impact on their future.
How Pupils Should Be Encouraged to Use Social Media
Young people view social media as just a natural part of their life – it is something that they grew up with. Most pupils will already tech-savvy, but this does not mean that they know how to use this resource effectively or safely. Young people require guidance on how to engage with social media, and this can include advice on:
• How their behaviour online today could impact their future – for example, prospective employers might read the things they have posted on social media sites.
• How to deal with cyberbullying
• How to access the validity of online resources
• How to think critically about online content
• How to avoid computer viruses spread through social media sites
• How to avoid online predators
• How to use their time productively on these websites
• How to avoid social media addiction
Social media is now a part of life for most young people, and schools that ignore it may be missing out on an important educational resource. There are potential dangers associated with this means of communication, but by using it as a tool, the educator can guide their students towards safe and beneficial use of this technology.