“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffet
It’s time to teach social media to high school students.
While some adults who don’t understand social media — ironically because they were never taught it —still dismiss it as a novelty or distraction, the reality is social media has become a force of incredible power, change, and business.
It’s changed our world and its importance is only growing.
So much so that I can’t think of anything more important to teach our next generation of leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and working class citizens than how to create and interpret social media.
If the job of our education system is to prepare students to succeed in the “real world,” then teaching them social media skills should be a prerequisite.
While most teenagers already use social media, I doubt many understand the intricacies of how social media works.
Social media skills are more than the ability to frame selfies and share Snaps.
For example, how many teens understand the impact their social posts can have on themselves, others, and the future?
How many know how to harness its power to achieve meaningful goals?
How many recognize the ways corporations, institutions, and brands use social media to influence them?
How many understand the impact social media has on the way business is done and careers are built?
We’ve handed a world-changing technology to a new generation without giving them any instructions on how to use it.
This isn’t about warning kids not to post photos of themselves at a kegger for fear of it impacting their college applications.
It’s about arming a new generation with skills to capitalize on the incredible opportunities social media will provide them in life.
It’s also a chance to create a class that combines elements of many different disciplines — just as social media does — into one relevant and valuable package.
Social Media 101 would teach students how to communicate in a connected world where that skill is more important than ever.
It could incorporate elements of writing, visual communication, and an overall understanding of how to tell a story using multiple forms of media.
It could illuminate the difference between one-to-one communication and one-to-many communication, the role of public vs. private communication, professional vs. personal communication, and how brands, media, and other institutions try to communicate to individuals.
Social Media 101 would teach students important life skills and give them a tool set to deal with the challenges of adolescent life.
The class could explore everything from self-image to bullying through a social media lens, and help kids understand the impact their news feeds and notifications have on their perception of their life and world.
In learning why people post what they post, how people react on social platforms, and how habits (good and bad) are formed, students would acquire a set of skills to help them understand and deal with the scenarios they face on a daily basis.
Taken a step further, the class could also explore the role social media plays in marketing and advertising — how social platforms use psychology to attract and retain users, and how advertisers use those platforms to reach and influence consumers.
Not all businesses are social media businesses, but any future business person is going to have to understand its impact — Social Media 101 could give students a head start.
This could include everything from the way the social economy works — a closer look at the iconic entrepreneurs of our day and the way companies have grown at rapid scale thanks to social platforms.
But this isn’t just about billion dollar startups. The class could also explore how small businesses use social media to make ends meet and connect with their community of customers.
Perhaps the most important things a Social Media class would do is be relevant — it would not only teach students a variety of skills to benefit them in life and career, but it would capture their attention and engage them because it would be rooted in platforms that already do that.
It’s important for kids to know who Henry Ford was, but it’s just as important for them to understand how the things they use every day came to be, why they’re hooked on them, and what they mean for the future.
I’m not foolish enough to believe social media is going to usher in some utopian age or that adding a social media class to high school curriculum will magically solve society’s problems.
Quite the opposite — I know social media causes as many problems as it solves.
But that’s exactly why I think it’s so crucial for us to start teaching students how social media works now.
Because some day soon, we’re going to need the next generation to fix those problems as opposed to amplify them.
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