Should schools teach responsible social media behavior?

Sep 07, 2016

When one thinks of a school setting the first thought that comes to mind is “education”. Schools teach our children, mold our children, socialize our children, and so much more. Should schools teach responsible social media behaviors?

Social media awareness is the new “sex education” of the 21st century. Everywhere you go, people are on their devices using social media apps and websites. Schools are also moving towards the laptops/phones/devices in the classroom setting, which has brought social media to the forefront of the educational system in this country. If schools are allowing social media in the classroom, shouldn’t there be some responsibility on the school to teach a curriculum geared towards social media awareness?

Social media in schools, including the dangers and security features online is a trendy, contemporary topic today. Schools try to stay ahead of the curve (or keep up with the trends) and incorporate courses that are applicable to the students’ generation. For example, schools offer courses such as health, computers, sewing, foreign languages and much more. Years ago when I went to school, we were offered courses that included typing, home economics, mechanics, military science, etc. Why not offer a social media awareness in the schools’ curriculum today?

One obstacle the schools may face with this curriculum is the parents. Many parents will not accept this material in their child’s school. Some parents are anti-social media. They feel that their child would never engage in any inappropriate behaviors online, and do not want the schools teaching their child any material related to social media. However, the common theme we see today is a student getting suspended, expelled, and/or reprimanded for their inappropriate behaviors online. These incidents may include cyber bullying, hacking, sexting, creating fake accounts, spreading rumors, and stealing passwords. Once a parent is contacted, someone is to blame. Parents may blame the schools, the friends, the policies. Let’s face it, no parent wants to think that their child was sending naked photos to another student. From my experiences, in most cases the parents will push the blame back on the schools (they are the ones allowing the technology in the classroom).

What is the solution to this issue in our schools? A digital citizenship curriculum should be created in all schools today! Depending on the ages (elementary, middle and high school), material can be age appropriate to prepare children about the dangers of social media. Some examples of this could include:

  1. Elementary students – discuss password safety, sharing passwords with parents, not playing video games with strangers online
  2. Middle School students - teach adolescents how to be upstanders and not bystanders, discuss cyber bullying, setting apps on private settings, knowing your followers
  3. High School students – discuss sexting and the legal consequences, dangers of putting information on social media, colleges and jobs follow prospective students and employees through their social media accounts

To appeal to the parents who may not want their child attending one of these classes, offer the courses as electives to make everyone happy. If the schools are also sharing their policies with the students (and parents) about their technology use/social media/cyber bullying, there will be less room to argue if/when a student is called to the office for “disrupting the learning environment” at school, by misbehaving on social media. This is the first generation where the students know more than the adults when it comes to social media. School administrators, teachers and parents need to be on the same page as the tech savvy children today. How can parents teach their children about cyber crimes and social media awareness when they have never used it in the same capacity as their child? Keeping the children safe online needs to be the #1 priority! One of the best ways parents can stay ahead of the curve is to partner with a parental control software like Net Nanny. Net Nanny not only provides award-winning protection and reporting but also publishes weekly content to parents on the latest digital trends and issues parent need to understand in the new mobile first age.