Social media is now becoming a popular and very common pastime for the current generation of school children. With social media playing such a central role in the everyday lives of so many people in the UK and the rest of the world, and with a large proportion of those who use social media still at school, it begs the question of whether schools should teach social media to their students? Although there can be many benefits to using social media, it can also have some serious negative effects and can lead to cases of cyber bullying. Should the dangers of using social media and internet safety be taught in schools?
Over a third of 9-12 year olds are believed to have their own Facebook accounts, regardless of the fact that there is a minimum age limit of 13 for the website. Children appear to be able to pick up how to use social media websites easily, often growing up as the developments happen, making it easy for them to adjust to the latest features on these networks. However, often children do not seem to notice the ways in which social media can be a danger to themselves or to others. At this age, children may not be completely aware of the repercussions that may ensue if they were to post something offensive online. It may be useful in this case to educate youngsters on what one should and should not post online.
Many young children are unaware that something that you post online might be misconstrued by others and can often never be fully erased from internet history. Children could therefore be educated on how it is wrong to write anything on a social networking site which you wouldn't say to someone's face. It is too easy for young people to get carried away when they are addressing someone they can't see or might not know personally, and they are less aware of the hurt or the offence that this could cause the recipient of the comment. Furthermore, children should be made aware that even simply 'liking' or re-tweeting a comment or post may implicate you in the content of the comment and makes it too easy to libel someone - a concept which children would not think of when using social media, especially if some users are as young as 9 years old. Schools may want to teach their students the potential risks that posting their indiscretions on Facebook might have upon their future applications to University or College, and even for jobs in the future. A recent law passed in California
aims to prevent these embarrassing posts from tainting one's future by making sure that all social networks have an option to delete past posts for minors. But should students be educated about the risk of posting these comments and photos in the first place whilst they are still at school?
Social media has often been at the source of cyber bullying, especially as the bullies can often hide behind anonymity or their online alias, and subsequently feel a greater sense of power and less like they will be associated with the hurtful comments which they choose to post. The distance between users on social media sites also means that the bully will not necessarily be aware of the level of pain that they might be causing their victim. The availability of social media networks has also exacerbated the problems of bullying for some individuals, as they can no longer escape from bullying at school by simply returning to the safety of their own home. Social networks in some cases just transfer the problem to a new arena, so that the bullying can continue at all times. The dangers of social media and cyber bullying can most recently be seen in the case of 14-year old Hannah Smith, who was found hanged in her bedroom after suffering months of abuse on the controversial site ask.fm in August 2013.
What may therefore be most useful for school children is to be taught in appropriate use of social media, and the danger of posting hurtful comments online. Schools should also be providing adequate support platforms for children who are being victimised in this manner so that they can come forward and ask for help. This form of education has already been introduced to some schools as part of their Personal Social Health Education programmes and 'Esafety' is already a part of the curriculum in both England and Wales, showing that there is already an attempt by schools to do more to teach students on the positives and negatives of social media and the importance of setting up privacy settings to protect themselves from potentially harmful individuals online.
As students often access their social media accounts while they are not at school, it could be argued that it is down to their parents to educate them in the dangers and benefits of using social media, as it is during the time when they are at home that children will choose to access these sites most. The parents are also the figures who provide the smartphones and the computers, from which their children access their social networks accounts from. Therefore, should the parents be the ones who are responsible for teaching their children the problems which might arise from social media use?
What do you think?
Do you think there should be lessons to teach students about the use of social media in schools? Should this be the responsibility of the parent?