Should Schools Teach Social Media?

The groundswell of interest in the question of whether schools should be teaching social media to students has been growing of late, and we don’t expect it to die down any time soon. After all, schools are at least in part in the business of teaching (a) things that parents don’t have the time, knowledge or resources to teach themselves (bullseye!), and (b) will further the goal of growing a well rounded, “educated” child.

A bill currently being considered by the New Jersey Senate, which was approved by the Assembly earlier this year, would require some level of social media education in schools. According to bill sponsors:

“The advent of social media has made it a far more complicated and different world for adolescents growing up today than it was for their parents,” said Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex). “Whether it’s adolescent impulsiveness or something more dangerous like bullying and harassment, it bears far more serious consequences when carried out over social media.

The above quote is one we agree with. The idea that schools should be tasked with teaching rudimentary personal image building and reputation management concepts, not so much. There are however, realities to consider:

“Social media is powering the world today and can affect college prospects, job opportunities and much more,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

We understand that in many states, schools are required to act on cyberbullying complaints. If this is the case, some education on how to stay on the right side of the school’s Harassment, Bullying and Intimidation policies with respect to electronic communications and social media is a good idea. Without it, schools would be in the bullying punishment business but not in the bullying prevention business.

school-teach-social-mediaWe would stop short of requiring or even encouraging schools to spend time teaching social media basics, or as a tool to enhance college or job prospects, except perhaps at the school counselor level.

Consider how quickly in-class social media course outlines would become stale. An article at Mind/Shift this week quotes Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, on the topic of keeping a curriculum even remotely current:

“It would be very difficult for schools trying to keep up with Instagram, Facebook, all of the apps that exist out there that are essentially market driven.”

In summary, character education and basic life skills need to be taught by parents.  Doing something bad online is still bad, and the child in question hasn’t stayed on the right side of right vs. wrong. Doing something that tarnished your reputation shows a possible lack of judgment, but schools can’t be held accountable for that. Any help that a school can provide in making sure that kids and teens are acting responsibly and respectfully is appreciated, but mandating across the board social media instruction by schools transfers a core parenting responsibility to an already overworked education system.

Disagree or have thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can sign up for our weekly newsletter on the right.

Leave a Reply