Social media is becoming a growing part of the way we interact with one another and make connections. With social media sites having millions (or even billions) of users each, it is not common to meet someone who doesn’t maintain a profile on at least one site.
With great power comes great responsibility. Though social media might give us more opportunities to connect, it also encourages us to put more of our private information online and leaves us vulnerable in many ways. Students are among the biggest users of social media, yet they also lack the maturity to understand all the ramifications of their actions online. For this reason, some have suggested that social media education become a part of school curriculums.
Here are some pros and cons of including social media education in the schools:
Teaches Responsible Behavior
Probably the most important benefit of teaching social media education in schools is that it teaches students responsible online behavior. Social media education can (and should) include information about what is appropriate to share online, how students can control their privacy settings, how what they post can influence their reputation, and what appropriate interactions are to have online. It would also be important to discuss cyberbullying, which is growing in frequency on social media.
Teaches Communication Skills
The same skills that students can learn through social media they can use in personal interactions. By teaching students what is appropriate to say online, they also learn what is appropriate to say in person. Learning how to communicate effectively and appropriately will help them in their college education and then again as they navigate their careers.
Encourages Use in Education
Social media isn’t all fun and games. By including social media in the classroom, educators set the stage for expanding its application. Social media can be used to encourage greater interaction among students, to connect with shy or withdrawn students, and to teach material in new ways. By including social media education in the classrooms, teachers can lay the groundwork for expanding its use in other parts of the curriculum.
Shifting of Resources
One of the biggest drawbacks of including social media education in the classroom would the shifting of resources away from other parts of the curriculum in schools where the budget is already tight (which is most schools). Why draw off resources to add this training to the curriculum when, say, an art class or biology class is on the chopping block? When resources are already stretched as far as it seems they will go, adding additional courses to the curriculum should be weighed very carefully.
Potential for Distraction
It’s kind of hard to teach a baking lesson without it turning it a cake free-for-all. Similarly, it’s hard to talk about social media without it becoming a distraction and a bit of entertainment. Students may become too interested in checking their news feed or in checking in with their virtual farms to pay attention to any lessons about responsible social media usage or appropriate online behavior. The “lesson” may become more about managing the class than about showing students how to properly use social networks.
Social media is undeniably a growing influence in our society, and it is important that students (and adults) learn how to use it responsibly and to engage in appropriate online behavior. However, there are many pros and cons as to whether or not these lessons should be taking place in the classroom or should be taught by parents and other mentors. Including social media education in schools would certainly help ensure that students learn valuable lessons about the use of social media, and it would lay the foundation for expanding the use of social media in other aspects of education and would help students learn valuable skills they could use in the future. However, including social media education in the classroom could also draw away valuable resources from other parts of the curriculum ad could become a distraction.
Do you think that social media education should be included in schools? Share your thoughts about the pros and cons of including social media education in the comments.