For better or worse, social media has become an ingrained part of our society both in America and across the globe. For that reason, it is critical that we as educators both prepare students to use it appropriately and safely, while also maximizing its use to engage our students in the classroom.
Student interest will certainly be piqued at the idea of utilizing some form of social media in the classroom, and teachers will need to be creative at how to make it feel like an authentic use of the social media selected while also having safety measures in place so that students do not misuse technology. Thinking about where to incorporate it into the curriculum is an important first step, and Social-Emotional Learning is an excellent place to start.
How Do Social Media Platforms relate to Social-Emotional Learning?
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is the instructional focus on developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to promote student well-being. According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) the five areas of SEL include: Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.
Any educator knows that when we address the “soft skills” in the areas of emotional management and interpersonal skills, we create both safety and connection in the classroom which affords students the opportunity to take academic risks and approach rigorous academic tasks.
Certainly, social media platforms from Facebook to Pinterest are linked to student development in these five areas of SEL. Social media affords people the opportunity to learn about one another, share individual identities, and form connections based on what is shared and spotlighted online. Social-Emotional Learning strives to help students feel confident about their own unique identity, respect the uniqueness of others, and also build meaningful relationships with those around them. Clearly, there is room for social media to be a tool in our effort to nurture the goals of SEL in the classroom.
How Can Social Media Negatively Impact Students?
Within social-emotional learning, it is important to note that social media can develop unhealthy attention and inauthentic growth in the five areas defined by CASEL. If social media platforms are used inauthentically, such as students misrepresenting themselves or their thoughts in relation to others, they are not truly developing the skills needed for self and social development. Risky online behavior and communication will always be a concern and should continue to be addressed proactively, with clear reactive responses outlined before use is initiated. A student should be aware of what consequences will occur if they are inappropriately using technology, and both parents/caregivers and students should sign some form of a contract suggesting understanding of these expectations and outcomes before use.
The most important thing to recognize and stay cognizant of as youth use social media is their developmental need for egocentric feedback. The dangers of social media with adolescents lie in the ways in which their need for approval and connection can lead to an obsession or misuse of these types of connective tools. To combat this, ensure that any use of social media concepts in the classroom are linked clearly to learning goals, have monitoring functions for you, and you consistently parent communication about how and why these tools are being used.
How to Incorporate Social Media into Social-Emotional Learning
As a teacher, you will need to assess both the developmental appropriateness of these activities for your students, as well as the accessibility and technological safety measures you have. If you would prefer not to engage in these social media concepts on technology, many can also be effectively implemented with pencil and paper while still employing the concepts and reaping the benefits of social media platforms!
First and foremost, social media platforms do have required age limits, therefore it is important to model appropriate behavior and not utilize or promote platforms that are not open to the age of your students. For example, if Instagram is for ages 13+, teachers should not be encouraging their students to create accounts or use the platform underage.
Instructional strategies for using social media in the classroom include, but are not limited to:
- Have students create their own Facebook pages about themselves to share about elements of their identity with classmates
- Have students make classroom Instagram accounts aligned with SEL goals. This could be having students post pictures that document their hopes and dreams, or reflect their emotions day to day to demonstrate how emotions change and also to communicate with others how they are feeling and what they may not show on the outside.
- Use Twiducate for safe social network communication. There are safe restrictions that afford students and teachers the opportunity to “tweet” in the classroom to communicate and participate.
- Utilize the site Good Reads to have students document their reading progress and communicate with one another about the books, authors, and genres they enjoy. Students can create book lists, follow one another’s reading selections, and comment to one another as it pertains to their reading interests.
- Have students create Pinterest boards for their hopes and dreams to set positive goals for their future. Sharing with one another, they will develop pride for their identity and respect for the identity of others through the use of this social media platform within your SEL instruction.
- Introduce the app Sit With Us to provide an authentic way for students to connect with others and encourage an inclusive school environment.