It's vital we teach social networking skills in school

First off, young people should learn not to write anything on Facebook or Twitter they wouldn't say to that person's face

Share
Related Topics

Social networking, especially via Twitter and Facebook, has become a major part in modern life for many millions of people. It therefore makes sense to show children how to use it wisely and how to get the best out of it – just as teachers and parents have always done with resources such as libraries and newspapers. Much better to guide and teach than to leave vulnerable children and teenagers to find out for themselves without warning them of the potential dangers, pitfalls and problems.

As with learning to read, swim or play good football children will be much more effective social networkers with support, guidance and help than without. They need to be able to capitalise on all the advantages of Facebook or Twitter without the disadvantages.

So three cheers for Taunton School, an independent school in Somerset, which has announced the inclusion of social networking in the basic internet safety section of its Personal Social and Health Education programme. I hope many more schools – in both maintained and independent sectors – follow suit.

There are three main reasons why teachers should be clued up about social networking and the ways in which it can be used with and by pupils.

First – and this seems to be Taunton School’s main concern – there’s the vexed question of what it is acceptable to say (write) on a social networking site and what it is not. It is all too easy to libel someone – even by re-tweeting someone else’s statement which amuses or interests you. If you re-tweet you pass it on and appear to be endorsing it which may implicate you in the content of the comment.

After the false and inaccurate connection of Lord McAlpine to allegations of child abuse in Wales earlier this year, he has announced his intention to sue a number of prominent Twitter users who spread information about the case around the network.

Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in 29 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales 653 people face charges involving use of Twitter and Facebook in 2012. Offensive or abusive messages are usually the trigger.

We need to educate young people to understand that it is wrong to write anything on a social networking site which you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. As it is, it is all to easy to get carried away when you’re addressing someone you can’t see and whom you may not know personally.

Second, Twitter and Facebook are, as has been well publicised, a groomer’s dream. It is vital that children – and I’m sure most parents and schools are already doing this – be carefully drilled in spotting the dangers. That means, for example, never posting suggestive photographs, ‘flirting’ online with strangers, or agreeing to meet anyone you’ve ‘met’ only via a social networking site.

Third, for goodness sake let’s capitalise on social networking and make it a force for the good in education. It means teachers have to get really clued up about how these sites work and can be made to work. Then the potential for learning is almost limitless.

In April I was followed on Twitter by thirty, photograph-less people en bloc. They had clearly genuine names and I’m sure it was a class of children – probably at primary school age. Their teacher had presumably chosen a group of people for these children to follow and thought I could be relied upon to behave appropriately. Three months later when term ended all those accounts were deactivated when, I suppose, the class moved on and the teacher was tidying up. He or she was, I surmise, teaching them how to use Twitter.

Children who are reluctant readers and writers can be encouraged to do both using social networking sites. A teacher friend told me recently how she’d got a group of four highly ‘reluctant’ nine year old boys to make up a pretty decent story collaboratively in 140 character Twitter posts. Even the Royal Shakespeare Company, a couple of years ago had six Tweeters unfolding a modern upbeat version of Romeo and Juliet (the project was called ‘Such Tweet Sorrow’) via Twitter which encouraged a lot of young people to read something they probably wouldn’t otherwise have done.

The key to making all this work, however, is that teachers and schools have to be open-minded and prepared to embrace new ways of working. Many, of course, are doing so with enthusiasm, but some are still locked in dinosaur mode. It is no good saying, typically without any personal experience of them, that Twitter and Facebook are silly and trivial, just something the kids to mess about with and nothing to do with schools and learning. Social Networking is here to stay. It’s part of 21 century life and we owe it to children growing up in a digital world to educate ourselves so that we can help the young to make the very best of it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agricultural Solicitor - East Midlands

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EAST MIDLANDS MARKET TOWN - A new and exciting...

English Teacher Thetford Secondary

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

Secondary Teacher Great Yarmouth

£115 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are currently work...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jules and Delaney  

Disney needs a princess with Down's syndrome

Keston Ott Dahl
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge  

Step away from Pottermore, JK Rowling. Your new Harry Potter stories are driving me mad

Caspar Salmon
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes