In week five of this term, Riccarton High School decided to unblock Facebook and Instagram on the school network during breaktimes. In doing this, we also revised the availability of Snapchat, and limited it to only being available during break times.
The freshly created Media and Advertising Division (M.A.D.), an elective course for year 11-13 students and student-led by the Communications Director, has created an Instagram account and are managing the Facebook and Snapchat accounts. Their guiding philosophy is to promote pride and positivity in and around the Riccarton High School community. First and foremost, we are seeking to lead by example with how we use these technologies.
M.A.D. focuses on creating content that celebrates success and encourages people to reinforce that face-to-face. Weekly tips are posted, many of which encourage people to put down their devices and do something else. We see this as the best point of interruption, what could be a better reminder that you are spending too much time online than the very platforms you are using!
Social media has become an integral part of society. Love it or hate it, it is here to stay. As educators and parents we need to guide our young people in how they use it to ensure that they represent themselves well, stay safe and are able to reap the benefits of this powerful new technology.
If we want our young people to learn to use these new tools as responsible adults, the most important thing is that we acknowledge the significance they have in the world now. Sometimes very important things happen online and students don't feel comfortable or confident sharing this with adults because it seems that parents and adults don't completely understand social media. If we want our students to trust us and talk to us, we may need to start the conversation ourselves. This boils down to even helping them understand when it is not a good time to use their devices.
So, get online! You don't have to be active, but having a basic understanding of the tools and world our young people inhabit can only be beneficial:
- Follow the various RHS channels and use the posts to start conversations with your children.
- Teach them when not to use their devices, over dinner might be a good time or after 8:00pm.
- Ask them not just what they learned today but how they are and what's going on in their world - all of it, not just the bits we're used to.
- And role model the behaviour we expect, sometimes we may feel the pull of the bright light and addictive scrolling, if we can't show them how to resist nobody will.
Social media is an exciting new frontier, full of promise and pitfalls. If we want our youth to be able to maximise its potential in the future we need to help them by exploring it together.