Teaching Responsible Social Media Literacy–The Problem with Over-sharing on Facebook and Twitter

Teaching literacy is my main objective as a Language Arts Teacher, however, more and more these days, it seems that I am speaking about  social media literacy in my classroom. I have a block of 42 minutes for my Reading class and the same students for a block of 42 minutes of Writing class. I am tickled that I have enough time to teach all required standards in my class and then some; we are even fortunate enough that we can devote much of our class time creating learning using technology. The use of technology is where normal learning boundaries can be blurred and my class is able to delve into social media outlets and–for better or for worse–we can learn together about the major problems with social media; specifically Facebook and Twitter.

I do love to use the examples of social media to teach…this post was devoted to teaching summarization using Twitter. I also have students make Facebook like pages for characters in their novels (lesson plan to follow soon) that we like to call Farcebook. I am reiterating these facts before I dig into the unpopular opinion that Facebook and Twitter can lead to real dangers for teenagers (and many adults) as both networking sites can potentially rob our students of their time, peace, identity, and ultimately, their safety.

The most troubling aspect of social media? Over-sharing; this is a huge quandary that can lead to big messes. Students need instruction in how to avoid over-sharing, Here are the most common ways students over-share their personal information:

  • Four Square: I have students who have a program called Four Square on their phones–my students then deliver posts throughout the day telling all of their “friends” where they are and where they have stopped. The problem? Many of my students have 500-1000 friends–I’m pretty sure that they don’t actually know all of these friends and there is a huge potential for danger. If nothing else, someone can steal you blind while you tell us via Four Square that you are shopping for TP at Target.
  • Posting Pictures: Some Aboriginal tribes believe when someone takes a picture of you, it steals part of your soul…hmmm. I know of young girls who have over 1000 pictures of themselves online…that in itself is a bothersome situation, but I wonder if they know what the lure of all those pictures is for those who look at them? The girls post them and the boys peruse their FB and Twitter accounts (and vice versa) looking at oftentimes inappropriate images that will then be forwarded and discussed…sometimes online and sometimes at school. The point is, there is no need to have hundreds (or thousands?) of pictures of yourself online for all of your friends–I doubt that anyone cares to see you eat an onion ring, mow the grass, wash the dishes, or sneeze. When we get down to it, a high level of self obsession and narcissism abounds here. And, while I’m on the topic, if I see one more pic of a girl throwing deuces up and sticking her tongue out, I may need to be committed=)
  • Posting Personal Messages: There are so many students who don’t know the difference between a personal message and a public post. They don’t know that just because someone makes them angry, that they shouldn’t post a rebuttal on their status or send a tweet with a personal message. They shouldn’t profess love in a post and they shouldn’t profess hate in a post…Status updates–or posts–are better left to the corny quotes kids pull from the internet or the score of the basketball game. Over-sharing personal messages as posts invites too many people into the personal life of my students.

The after effects of over-sharing can be very detrimental with the most obvious being:

  • Bullying This is the usual subject that comes up at school; the consequence of over-sharing. How easy is it to bully someone who shares their entire life online? It makes it too easy for the bully–way too easy! A bully knows where you live, what you drive, the ethnic makeup of your family, your income, the contents of your pantry and your underwear drawer. Social media makes possible much of the bullying that carries over into school. One way to discourage social media bullying? Teach your students to limit posting private info and private pictures to lessen the chance of being targeted by a cyber-bully.

The main idea behind teaching social media literacy is to protect students and broaden their knowledge base of technology. I know that even many adults lose sight of the fact that, “just because we have it, doesn’t mean we should use it” motto. In a world of more, more, more, it is incredibly hard to teach less. But, as responsible educators, we have to meet our students where they are and teach what they are lacking…in this day, social media literacy is definitely lacking.

Happy teaching=)

4 thoughts on “Teaching Responsible Social Media Literacy–The Problem with Over-sharing on Facebook and Twitter

  1. Thank you for sharing this. As an educator I completely agree with what you have said; as a FB user I also know how easy it is to forget some of those things and over-share.

  2. Simple, straight forward, good info. Need info on dealing with the bully, especially when it doesn’t happen at school, but staff is expected to correct it.

  3. Good post. Parents need to be more engaged in teaching common sense with social media. Even adults need guidance. For example, when you start a new job, you sign a document called an AUP – an acceptable use policy that outlines what you can and cannot do on the internet and with email. There should be an equivalent for parents and students to sign together – the simple act of discussing what is acceptable and not acceptable is a great first step. I heard someone say “there is no app for good parenting.” Anyway, at TrueCare, we’re drafting a social media AUP and since you are involved with teaching kids social media common sense I wanted to get a copy to you for your feedback before we publish it. Could you look at http://www.truecare.com/aup or http://blog.truecare.com/internet-protection/so-your-teen-wants-a-facebook-page/

    and let me know if you have any edits or ideas? My email is ben @ maconraine.com Thanks for your help.

  4. Great information on educating students about the use of social media…but we as teachers have to embrace social media as a valuable means of communicating. The potential to collaborate, produce and consume online materials is very exciting for the future of education.

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