The popularity of social media has grown at an almost unbelievable rate since the trend began. Facebook now has 845 million monthly users, and social networking accounts for 1 out of every 6 minutes spent online. Looking at these figures, it comes as no surprise to learn that social media sites are becoming more and more common in education. Dubbed ‘Educational Networking’, teachers are using these social media sites to engage their students in a way that is relevant and interesting to them. Many schools have their own twitter accounts to deliver information and update their students quickly, and Youtube has become a valuable resource for educational video content.
There is no doubt that social media sites are being used proactively to help children learn, but is it really a good idea to be encouraging children to engage in social networking from a young age when the risk of being exposed to inappropriate content is still very prominent?
To prevent young children accessing them, most social media sites require the user to be over a certain age, but this week Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, noted that some parents are helping their children set-up under-age profiles on Facebook. An argument could be made that by doing it this way the parents know what their children are doing and who they are interacting with, but are they going to be able to stop them being exposed to inappropriate material on their smartphone/at a friend’s house/at school?
This week on Twitter, a TV character’s parody account encouraged followers to tweet a sexually graphic image of themselves, and with over 270,000 followers, Twitter soon became bombarded with images that are, to put it lightly, not suitable for a younger audience. Even more shocking is that these images could be accessed by students in Schools that allowed the use of twitter.
Also, not too long ago, YouTube suffered an attack of inappropriate videos being uploaded. Seemingly harmless children’s videos cut to pornography half way through and with 60 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it is near impossible to moderate.
Using social media sites in the classroom can be invaluable in helping children learn, but staff must understand the threats associated with them, and also be aware of the tools, such as Web and Media Filters, that can be used to reduce the risk of exposing their students to inappropriate material.
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