The Reflective Educator

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Social media for parents

Reprinted with permission from our school’s Imprint magazine.

On May 2nd, at 6:00 PM, Stratford Hall will be hosting a social media bootcamp for parents, with myself leading the workshop. The intention of the night is to teach parents some of the basic issues with social media, and how parents can be proactive in helping their children understand these issues.

Social media has been around for a few years now, but very few schools have been proactive in teaching students about the issues involved with it; the same is true of most parents. Given that social media is not likely to leave our lives any time soon, we must find ways to adapt our societal structures to include training for kids (and adults) in what issues social media bring into our lives.

Social media is a new way that human beings are connected through a mixture of online- and text messaging-based services. It has become a new mode of communication as it allows mass communication at unprecedented levels. Never before in history have human beings been able to communicate with each other on such scale, with such speed, and with virtually no cost associated with that communication.

This form of mass communication has some issues.

It is almost too easy to post information to these social networks, including information that is false or libelous. It is very common to hear in the news that someone has posted something foolish on another person’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. It is important to note here that the behaviours of these people haven’t changed, they just have a much wider audience with which to share their idiocy. With a large audience, and a simple venue through which to post their thoughts, they can share information often before they have time to completely consider the consequences of their actions.

Another problem is that social networks have become a distraction for many people. With the ability to maintain constant communication with a large group of followers, some people have fallen prey to narcissism, and a near addiction to using the social media. School-aged children are not only distracted from their work by the people in their immediate presence, but everyone that they can connect to through their devices as well.

On the plus side, social media also has powerful connective abilities. Through social media, everyone can find the part of society to which they belong, and those who were once isolated can have a community. The events in Tunisia and Egypt have shown just how powerful the community-building effect of social media can be, as the tool helped to rally and form a cohesive opposition to the ruling powers in those two countries.

Through my own social network, I have access to information which would otherwise be difficult, time-consuming, and in some cases even expensive to access. I can ask a question, and very quickly receive a response, no matter how complicated the question may be. I can interact with educators all over the world and share my expertise, while borrowing others’ expertise to solve my own problems.

So social media is a double-edged sword, just like every other communication tool we use. It has the power to pull together our planet closer than ever before, but it also brings new problems to our society, with which we are still learning how to cope. Stratford Hall’s aim is to prepare our students for a world in which social media exists, rather than completely ignoring its presence.

Here is the presentation I’m going to share with parents (posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share-alike license).