The world of school now is quite unimaginable to those who attended before social media ever existed. With both good and bad points, the internet and social media can be a difficult issue to address, and even more difficult to control, especially in schools. With students reporting huge amounts of stress and pressure from online activity, many schools are stepping up to address these issues and start a dialogue that will hopefully curtail some of the emotional stress and damage this is causing to secondary school students.
Parents are encouraged to put restrictions on social media and smartphone usage on younger teenagers. It is recommended children under the age of 13 should not have any social media accounts, and those that do should have time limits on daily usage, as well as utmost privacy. Make them aware of the dangers of accepting friend request from unknown people, and sharing images online.
Parents should also be aware of posting their own images of their children. When children reach a certain age, it’s likely there are thousands of images of them online, taken and uploaded without their permission or knowledge from being a baby right up to teenage. Similarly, taking photos that include other people’s children should be something they are aware of too.
Staff and parents should refrain from discussing any school issues online, and instead use only email communication for any discussions or complaints. Both staff and parents should refrain from using social media or smartphones while on school premises. This can directly affect children who are likely to mimic the behaviour of adults.
The pressure of social media involvement can be felt right from Year Seven. It’s a good idea for this to be discussed in the classroom. What laws can affect children on social media? What celebrities do they follow online? How many photos of themselves do they have uploaded? Are these photos considered legally inappropriate? Keeping the discussion open, judgement- and blame-free is important for the children to feel safe and free to talk openly about issues and to understand the message fully. They will likely learn things they are unaware of, and become more sympathetic towards other people.
One of the main problems of social media presence in schools is how it affects children’s interactions with each other. While saying something mean to someone’s face has an immediate and very visual effect, posting something online is a totally different matter. It can be much easier and have far fewer repercussions, which can directly impede children’s emotional growth, maturity, and intelligence.
This is not an issue that will disappear overnight, but one that should continue to be addressed and discussed for coming generations.