Social media has become omnipresent in our everyday life. It is a way to connect with people, communicate with others, and share information within our circles and beyond. While it is an undeniable fact that social media has propelled communication forward, it also many downsides.
The main disadvantage of social media is that it can mold impressionable young minds so easily. Kids today are influenced by what they see on social media, and not everything on social media is positive–let alone safe.
Teaching children how to use social media correctly is imperative to their development, especially in terms of social and self-awareness. Here are the best strategies to educate children about responsible social media use:
1. Start with safety and privacy
One of the most important lessons that children need to learn is Internet safety and privacy, especially on social media. Just like archiving software solutions, posting something on social media is practically stored forever. Therefore, children need to know how to use social media without compromising their safety or privacy.
Here are some teaching points that educators can use:
- Limit the personal information that you share
- Never share your location or address with others
- Don’t add people that you don’t know
- Use a strong password
- Don’t use the same password for all accounts
- Keep your social media profiles private
- Avoid linking social media accounts to each other
2. Deal with cyberbullying
Children need to understand that their words have the power to affect someone else. On a broad platform like social media, saying insensitive or intolerable things (whether directly to a person or not) can hold a negative impact on other people.
At the same time, they can also be affected by the words of others. Sooner or later, they will experience feeling sad, angry, or fearful about something they see online. Here are the best ways you can teach them how to handle both situations:
- Educate them about proper online etiquette
- Go over lessons about empathy, tolerance, and sensitivity
- Teach them what to do if they see someone else being bullied
- Provide strategies to use when they are being bullied online
- Emphasize the effect that their words can have on others
- Encourage them to recognize online toxicity and how to avoid it
3. Emphasize the importance of balance
According to research, children aged 8-12 years old are spending an average of six hours a day on digital technology. From any angle you look at it, that’s way too much time staring at a screen.
Moreover, children spend a lot of that time on social media, consuming an astounding amount of media every day. Hence, researchers and health professionals are continuing to sound the alarm on smartphone addiction or nomophobia (the fear of being without a mobile phone), as more and more kids start to develop it.
Teachers and parents must work together to help children avoid spending too much time in front of a screen. Here are some strategies that can help:
- Encourage parents to limit their kids’ screen time at home
- Educate children about the harmful effects of too much screen time
- Explain to children why their screen time is being limited (in a way that they can understand)
- Teach children strategies on how to avoid getting addicted to social media
- Encourage other productive activities that don’t involve a screen
4. Dispel the myths about social media
If they are going to use social media, children should know that not everything on there is true. Teaching them this fact can help them navigate social media more carefully, as well as avoid falling for fake news, unrealistic beauty standards, and other myths present on these platforms. More importantly, kids must learn that even if other people are doing it, it doesn’t mean that it’s morally correct.
Here are some points to share with your students:
- Not everything you see on social media is true
- Think twice before imitating another person on social media (e.g., challenges)
- Verify news articles and blog posts before you share it with others
- Photos and videos on social media are prone to editing and enhancement
- Not every person on social media projects their genuine self on their profiles
- Do not compare yourself with the people you see on social media
In today’s world, social media is a significant part of everybody’s online lives. Since children are going to use social media at some point, take the opportunity to teach them about responsible social media use while they are still new to it.