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Does social media help or hinder my teen with their learning?

Whatever your opinions are about social media, there is no getting away from the fact that it is an integral part of modern day life and if used mindfully, can foster connections, boost self esteem, support you with your learning, give you a platform to express yourself and collaborate with others.

Of course, when it comes to our pre-teens and fully -fledged teenagers, it is essential that we approach social media with caution, support our children in understanding how to keep safe online and set limits and boundaries that are age-appropriate and facilitate them to access the internet in a safe way.

Some social media apps that are popular among this age group are, Instagram, Messenger or Messenger Kids, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and YouTube Kids. Some of these you may be familiar with. If not, then take a little time to get to know the platform, any age-restrictions they may have and the potential risks and benefits to your teen. The NSPCC has some information about apps here, that may be a good place to start,

So, how can social media benefit our teens?

Let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits of social media, particularly in relation to learning and development and how we can work with it to support our pre-teens and teenagers with their education.

  1. Collaboration

Collaboration is a key element in learning for many of us, and working alongside others to explore ideas, ask questions and create can be really beneficial for our teens' development.

Through social media, children can lean and appreciate different perspectives and world-views to better understand the world around them and build up their knowledge on a range of topics.

When ideas are shared on social media, teens can discover interests and passions they may have, how others express themselves and even take part in collaborative projects or movements.

Although collaboration clearly has many benefits and social media can be a fantastic place to discover new ideas, of course it is important that parents closely support these connections and openly discuss ways to keep safe, take an interest in what teens are doing and who they are connecting with and have appropriate age-restrictions in place.

  1. Improve digital media literacy

As mentioned above, the digital world, and in particular social media, isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it has become very much an integral part of all our lives, not only socially, but also for business, employment and learning. Supporting our teens to access social platforms when it is age-appropriate and explore how to use them and contribute to them safely, will support the development of their digital literacy skills.

What is digital media literacy?

Simply put, Digital literacy is an ability to find, evaluate, and communicate information by using digital media platforms and software.

When developing digital literacy skills, you are learning to find and process information, solve problems, communicate and collaborate and are developing wider social and cultural understanding.

Within the school curriculum, many of these skills are being taught as part of the computing curriculum from primary age, where children are developing skills and understanding about how to use technology safely, respectfully and creatively to solve problems and express ideas. UNICEF has an article about the importance of digital literacy here, for further information.

  1. A place to seek support

We have already mentioned supporting and guiding our children to be safe online. Of course, this is one of, if not the most prominent areas of consideration when we are talking about teens accessing social media. Ultimately, social media is a place which can be unfiltered for our children, so ensuring we remain informed and continue to have open, honest and trusting relationships with our teens regarding its usage, is at the heart of this article.

But despite its risks, social media is a very effective place to seek support from others.

What could this look like for our teens?

  • All social media platforms are a great place to connect with friends and family. Some of which may live a distance away. Encouraging a wider network of trusted people for our teens is a great way to help them feel supported.

  • Social media platforms such as YouTube, have extensive support materials produced by teachers and other educational professionals to support children with things such as exam prep

  • Using apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Groups can be a way to seek group support during exam revision times

  • During exam periods, social media platforms have been used to create a culture in which many students vent their stresses, questions surrounding specific courses and experiences; they can become an outlet for students to not only discuss exams, but to bring a light to them

So, does social media help or hinder my teen with their learning?

Social media has had somewhat of a bad rep when it comes to children and teenagers: often labelled as a ‘distraction’ or held up as something that is damaging our children’s mental health, it’s easy to see why many parents feel nervous about facilitating access to it.

However, while there are many considerations in terms of accessing social media safely and mindfully, for most of us, it is something which is part of our everyday lives and something which we have a responsibility to teach and support our children to use in a way that can have a positive impact on their life and learning.


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