As teachers begin to embrace the positive impact of social media use in the classroom, digital safety expert and thought-leader Henry Platten discusses how it’s possible to integrate social media into lessons in a safe, controlled and valuable manner.
For today’s digital natives, living in a world with social media is the norm. Many school-age children will have seen and potentially used social media; some may even have their own profiles or accounts. One recent study even revealed that 23% of 8-11-year olds have one or more social media accounts. Harnessing this curiosity about social media, teachers have begun to realise the value of its use in primary school lessons; offering opportunities for children to explore and expand not only their digital know-how, but also focus on more general literacy and communication skills encompassing a wide variety of topics and viewpoints in a safe environment.
Examining options for content creation (written and visual), audience engagement/interaction and discussion surrounding chosen content themes, can open-up a world of possibilities. But, before integrating social media into your lesson plans there are a few issues to consider…
- It’s important to communicate to parents prior to use that you will be using it in a controlled way in the classroom (with you posting the content).
- Of course, proper research is crucial and a full risk assessment, with specific rationale for use should be submitted to your Designated Safeguarding Lead.
- You should also explore the privacy agreement of your chosen social media platform and ensure that it is compliant with your school’s GDPR policy.
- In addition, content should be screened prior to use for relevancy and suitability. Ensuring that you remain in control of access is key; something that can be simple with use of an appropriate tool like NetSupport School for broadcasting from the lead (teacher) computer, to the pupils’ screens, so you are able to effectively manage what appears and when.
If you’re hesitant to use mainstream social media channels, there are specific child-focused options, like GoBubble, a social platform which is tailored for use by children in the school environment. Tracy Mercier, a digital lead in her school explained: “It’s important to create that safe learning environment. GoBubble has taken all of the stress away from using social learning. It’s important that we provide learners with the opportunities to collaborate so they can discover their authentic student voice.”
Establishing appropriate social media use with young users in schools, as well as enhancing opportunities for education can also build foundation for safe use of these platforms in the future. We would love to hear about your school’s social media use and successes.
Launching a Social Media Lesson: Key Steps
1) Gain parental permission
2) Create a risk assessment and draft a rationale sheet to provide to your safeguarding lead, exploring your motivation for using social media within your lesson(s).
3) Read the privacy agreement/statement on the social media platform you’re using and ensure it meets your schools GDPR policy.
4) Discuss social media ‘dos and don’ts’ with the pupils and ensure they’re aware of how to behave appropriately and empathetically when giving and receiving feedback online
5) Ask the children to draw up their own rules for content creation.
6) Ensure you remain in control of content sharing at all times.
7) Set up filters in your chosen social media platform to exclude any potentially sensitive material.
8) Establish a class account or profile that you can use to follow and interact with other classes, schools or relevant accounts.
 NSPCC (2018) How Safe are our Children?