Social media, when used in a responsible and age-appropriate way, can help children learn, think critically and build the skills they need for the future.
Social media helps children communicate, share and learn, and offers opportunity for children to practice key 21st century skills they will use into the future.
How can social media assist in building digital skills?
Technology has become a core part of our world. Ongoing developments into mixed reality, automation and artificial intelligence will have a major impact on what jobs look like in the future. For this reason, digital skills are becoming not only important, but essential. The Foundation for Young Australians report on New Work Smarts (PDF, 1.9MB) predicts that future jobs will be less focused on routine tasks and more on working with people and solving problems. Young people can use social media to develop these skills.
Social media can help children build digital skills in:
- navigating and sharing digital content
- responsible online interaction
- building an online identity
- maintaining their digital reputation.
How can social media help young people learn?
Using social media and the internet help your child with their learning. The Internet has given us access to huge amounts of quality information, and social media is a great tool for finding and sharing quality information. Children can find different types of information about areas of interest and topics they are learning at school. Social media can also connect you with experts and communities of learners.
Learning on social media can occur when:
- reading articles
- asking questions
- replying to posts
- watching video tutorials
- talking with friends.
- discussing topics with other people
How can social media groups help young people learn about themselves and others?
Social media allows young people to get to know and learn about new and diverse groups of people. The Pew Research Center in 2018 found that teenagers used social media to meet people from different backgrounds, get diverse views and demonstrate their support for causes. A majority of teenagers who spent time in online groups said that those groups helped them meet new people, feel more accepted, work through their feelings on important issues and get through tough times in their life.
In general, social media groups can provide:
- a sense of belonging and community
- access to support from like-minded individuals
- an appreciation of different perspectives
- reduced isolation
- a monitored discussion environment.
How can social media help to develop critical thinking skills?
As technology has made it easier for people to share a huge range of news and information, it has also become necessary to think about the reliability of online content. It can be difficult to tell whether something is real or fake, especially when it looks like it comes from a trusted friend or an official source. You can help your child to develop their critical thinking skills by giving them strategies to judge the reliability of different sources of information.
Critical thinking skills can be built by:
- discussing how choice of words, videos and images can change how you think about information
- identifying trusted sources of information and discussing what makes something trustworthy
- teaching children to question the reliability and the source for information, both online and in other media.
How can social media help young people develop identity?
While older people might think of their online and offline lives as very different things, children and teenagers can find this separation confusing. Young people have grown up in a world where the distinction between online and offline is increasingly blurred, and their online presence is an important part of their identity.
For young people, an online identity is:
- an extension of themselves
- a way to explore different parts of themselves
- a way to share or explore interests that are not available offline.
An online identity is not:
- a ‘fake’ identity
- a way to lie to peers and friends
- a means of exploring bad behaviours.
Safety tips using social media
- Check your privacy settings
- Be mindful of how much you share
- Be wary of surveys and competitions
- Disable location services and avoid 'checking in'
Curriculum and syllabus links
NSW Syllabus outcomes
- EN5-1A responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis, imaginative expression and pleasure
- EN5-2A effectively uses and critically assesses a wide range of processes, skills, strategies and knowledge for responding to and composing a wide range of texts in different media and technologies
- EN5-3B Selects and uses language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audience and contexts, describing and explaining their effects on meaning
- EN5-7D Understands and evaluates the diverse ways texts can represent personal and public worlds
- EN5-8D Questions, challenges and evaluates cultural assumptions in texts and their effects on meaning
- PD5-3 Analyses factors and strategies that enhance inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships
- PD5-9 Assesses and applies self-management skills to effectively manage complex situations
- PD5-10 Critiques their ability to enact interpersonal skills to build and maintain respectful and inclusive relationships in a variety of groups or contexts
Australian Curriculum content descriptions
- ACELT1635 Explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts
- ACELY1739 Analyse how the construction and interpretation of texts, including media texts, can be influenced by cultural perspectives and other texts
- ACELY1742 Interpret, analyse and evaluate how different perspectives of issue, event, situation, individuals or groups are constructed to serve specific purposes in texts
- ACELY1744 Use comprehension strategies to interpret and analyse texts, comparing and evaluating representations of an event, issue, situation or character in different texts
- ACELY1745 Explore and explain the combinations of language and visual choices that authors make to present information, opinions and perspectives in different texts
- ACELY1746 Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features
- ACELA1564 Understand how language use can have inclusive and exclusive social effects, and can empower or disempower people
- ACELA1565 Understand that people’s evaluations of texts are influenced by their value systems, the context and the purpose and mode of communication
- ACELA1566 Compare the purposes, text structures and language features of traditional and contemporary texts in different media
- ACELT1641 Analyse and explain how text structures, language features and visual features of texts and the context in which texts are experienced may influence audience response
Health and Physical Education
- ACPPS093 Investigate how empathy and ethical decision making contribute to respectful relationships
- ACPPS094 Evaluate situations and propose appropriate emotional responses and then reflect on possible outcomes of different responses
- ACPPS098 Critique behaviours and contextual factors that influence health and wellbeing of diverse communities
- 'Education for a changing world', NSW Department of Education, accessed 24 May 2022
- 'The experience of digital citizenship in a secondary school curriculum', Kingsmill, T.J. (2016), accessed 24 May 2022
- 'Social media', eSafety Commission, accessed 24 May 2022