Social Media: A Battle Between Beliefs and Necessity!

To describe my relationship with social media is to outline a story of ups and downs. For me, my earliest memories are with email and MSN Messenger. These are really quite minimal as I truly only used them for faster communication with those who I was no longer close to in proximity. Slowly this expanded to include texting – the good ol’ T9 kind. Wow did this make life easier! How quickly actual phone conversations disappeared though. Facebook came next and from there, the social media world seemed to explode.

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I remember when I first saw Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and I thought, why? Why do we need so many different platforms? Well, as much as I personally felt I didn’t need to have all these things on the go, along came my 13 year old daughter. Suddenly I was completely thrown into a NEED to be more aware of what existed and how to use it. At the same time, I was teaching Grade 5 and in my first year at a school where half the children of that age already had phones (today I would say that is more like 75%). Two-thirds of the way through that first year, I became aware of social media concerns with my students. I had students sending messages from other students devices, saying hurtful things about their peers in group chats, and posting unkind things about their peers in public domains like (which would later become TikTok). By the end of that year it became very clear to me that:

  1. I needed to increase my own awareness of social media platforms.
  2. Parents and educators in general needed to increase their awareness of the social media platforms that exist, safety concerns and ways to monitor and keep their own children safe.
  3. Digital Citizenship instruction should be a part of school from an early age.

After many discussions with my administrators, my husband and a few other teachers who were seeing similar things, I started on a journey to find resources to support students, teachers and parents. This became part of my work in Learning Improvement Teams (LITs) for the next two years.

While there were many wonderful websites out there including Media Smarts and Common Sense Media, we found that teachers needed help to see where Digital Citizenship fit in their curriculum. Not everyone felt as strongly as I did that this was something that should be addressed in schools. For this reason we turned to the guide Digital Citizenship in Education.

The layout of this Saskatchewan guide, written by Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt, breaks down Digital Citizenship into nine elements found within three different categories. What we most appreciated about this as a team, was that it was not just focussed on all the bad things about social media. It helped to provide a framework for instruction meant to increase student’s digital literacy. We used this guide to pull together a sequence of lessons addressing each of the nine elements at each grade level, using numerous resources, including those mentioned previously. We then connected the specific lessons to their curriculum correlations for students in K-8, in order to provide teachers with concrete evidence of how digital citizenship education fit within their instruction.

This has been a big part of my social media journey and helped me to develop as a more digitally literate adult. It improved my own instruction in how to conduct research, the use of online educational tools and my attitude towards technology. However, it also made me increasingly more aware of the need to maintain a healthy balance. While I do not boycott social media all together, I find it to be a huge time sucker. I also see the effects of it on my mood very quickly and find it generally makes me unhappy. For this reason, I personally limit myself, try very hard to be present in the moment and avoid this ever present distraction in our world.

This leads to my current stop on the technology journey which is a feeling of it taking over my life no matter how much I don’t want it to (this is something I will discuss more later)! In fact, I kind of feeling like I am drowning it at the moment! Is anyone else feeling this way?

3 thoughts on “Social Media: A Battle Between Beliefs and Necessity!

  1. Cute theme! Your post looks great!

    I too have learned many social media outlets to stay current with what my students are doing. Some of them have been useful to keep in touch, and others can be a huge time waster. Although I find that there are a lot of resources out there that teach about digital citizenship and literacy, I know that they aren’t necessarily being taught and reinforced in the elementary school setting. For one, many teachers themselves aren’t familiar with it, and two, there isn’t a one-stop-shop resource to go to that can easily be picked up and presented to students without a little bit of research, understanding, and time learning.

    I too feel like I am overloaded with the pressures of social media, and have been taking a break from most of them. I don’t overly have the headspace for it, and I have grown tired of the COVID perfection that people are portraying (especially the sourdough bread, the perfect postpartum bodies, and the people who have it all together 100% of the time).

    Thanks for your very honest post. I appreciated reading it.

  2. I agree, digital citizenship is essential for students of all ages to discuss in school, especially with how children who are younger and younger are beginning to utilize social media platforms. I try and cover this topic every year with my students (4/5). Common Sense Media and Media Smarts are some of my favourite resources!

    I do also believe it is difficult for teachers to navigate how to deal with bullying on social media when a student brings it up. Who’s responsibility is it to deal with? The teacher/school or the parents? At my school, we have a zero use device policy so students are not allowed to use their phones at any point during the day (including recesses and lunch). We have had lots of positive feedback from students on this and many of the 6-8s who have phones say that they find there is less bullying with this policy.

  3. Gillian,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and really agree that parents and educators in general needed to increase their awareness of the social media platforms. I have often thought about how many elementary schools run numeracy and literacy evenings and that it might be good to start including evenings or sessions on social media awareness that is geared towards parents and families. I found two websites that might be worthwhile to share with parents:

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