Social Media In Schools

My 10-year old niece has been learning about e-mail and using the internet at school.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear this because it can be a contentious issue.

Understandably many schools and / or local authorities are concerned about cyber-bullying, some have even taken the over-the-top option of banning social networking completely.

I say “over-the-top” because, whilst I accept that Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and whatever other sites are popular at the moment, have potential security issues for kids, there are some safe alternatives for them to get to used to how they work.

Sites such as Kidblog.org allow a ‘closed’ safe environment for kid’s to blog to each other.

There are a number of reasons that schools should embrace social media.  The obvious first reason is that most of them have age limits – Facebook and Google+ won’t let anyone join who isn’t at least 13.  iTunes has the same age limit.  Therefore any child that has one of these accounts HAS to have had parent’s over-seeing the set-up of those accounts.

I myself, have set up a blog for my niece but it’s private and not findable via a search engine. The only people that can view it are those that have been given access.  I’ve shown her how to post to it and she’s happy enough with it. All comments have to be approved by me before they appear on the site, just in case.

Will a ban stop cyber-bullying?

Short answer: No.

If anything it will move it from an environment where you  have at least some control and visibility, to one where you have none whatsoever.

Perhaps more importantly, children need to be taught how to use  social media safely and securely, and they can’t do this in a vacuum. In today’s modern age keeping your online identity secure and understanding the consequences that sharing information can have are both things that children need to be prepared for.

What constitutes a Social Networking Site nowadays?

Pretty much any site nowadays could be considered “Social Networking”.

Most “experts” would say that a social networking site is one whereby you have a profile, can make a social connection and communicate with people.

The internet has developed so quickly and with hardly any regulation that it’s not always clear.

Is there really that much difference between writing an abusive comment on a blog post and writing a similar thing on their Facebook wall?  I would say not.

Social Media helps creativity

Valuable lessons can be learned, not from the teacher, but from the students interacting between themselves. Social networking provides a solid platform to nurture pupil-to-pupil communication, whether it’s sharing a drawing or photo, providing feed back on someone else’s pictures.

Writing blog posts gets the kids into the habit of writing short pieces on a vast array of subjects, providing them with much-needed experience in being creative with their writing.

Removing that tool restricts their possibilities to develop these skills, that will be an integral part of their later lives.

A number of studies, have proved the positive benefits that use of social media can have as part of a teacher’s toolkit. If you had a powerful, free suite of tools that could raise engagement and and achievement that is surely something to be celebrated?

It seems to me that many education authorities are teaching their kids activities that will have little or no impact on their future lives.  How will this affect their potential success in the 21st century?  Certainly, ignoring some of the most important influences on peoples’ lives today, doesn’t seem like an ideal way of preparing them.

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