Getting Social

How social media proves to be a valuable educational tool for children.

GUEST COLUMN | by Carole Thompson

CREDIT static flickerSocial media has a very ambiguous role in our education system. Nobody is sure what to make of it — whether to denigrate it or applaud it. But no matter how we approach it, social media is here to stay and permeates every aspect of young people’s lives.

As an educator or a parent, most of us are confused as to how exactly we can use social media as an educational tool. Concerns regarding the effects of social networking on children are still unaddressed and can be highly unnerving to parents and teachers.

Studies show that a large percentage of children in the age group of 9-12 use Facebook, though the site requires users to be of a minimum age of 13. What are the implications of a highly social media-savvy student population? How can you steer your tween to use and navigate the virtual world responsibly?

The opportunities and learning avenues online are mind boggling, provided the children are taught to stay away from the danger that lurks there.

Let’s see how social media can be encouraged as an educational and developmental tool for young children.

Children Learn the Ropes of Social Interaction

Early teens can be introverted and disengaged from classroom learning. Social media can be used as a tool for drawing them in to study-related discussions online. Teachers will appear less intimidating and hence the children may be more willing to contribute and communicate.

Many children prefer to go unnoticed in the class and interact less with their peers due to shyness and a fear of rejection. When the interactions are online, the less perceived risk will help these kids to express themselves openly and with more willingness to communicate.

Children Learn to Be More Engaging

Many schools encourage sharing content online. Children are encouraged to think creatively and innovatively, and try to make their submissions as sharable as possible.

Responsible social media communication helps young learners attract and engage an audience. This is a valuable skill as more universities, colleges and prospective employers lend much weight to the social presence and online personal branding of applicants.

The early lessons learned in creating suitable, responsive and value-adding content for followers and users make the students confident and capable. They are better equipped to deal with new university admission criteria and the demands of future careers and workplaces.

Children Learn to Manage their Time Online Better

Appropriate academic pursuits on social media sites help students spend their ‘wired’ time better. Teachers can help students accomplish more when they are home, and thus contribute to continued and sustained leaning.

Since there is learning happening away from school as well, teachers get better student response, improved results and more efficiency in classrooms.

Blogging Reinforces Classroom Learning

Several schools and colleges encourage students to blog. They can share their thoughts on what is being taught in classrooms, the way they look at the subject, and the various ways through which their learning manifests in their life.

Other students can comment, share their views and contribute to discussions.

Using social media sites as tools for collaboration and collective engagement make classroom learning an enriching experience for students.

Blogs equip and promote excellent communication skills in students. They learn to multiply their audience and enjoy peer support in academic pursuits.

Social Media Promotes Team Work

The collaborative nature of the interaction allows students to work in teams to create content, to access and assess each other’s work, and also to reach out to their teachers when they need help.

Discussions and debates started online quickly draw in students and teachers alike, leading to fruitful and uninhibited interaction. Google Docs and Wikispaces are really popular collaborative tools for students and teachers.

Class Podcasts Endow Ownership to Student Community

Podcasts have grown to be a really powerful user-generated content creation tool. Classroom podcasts are free and easy to create. Students can hear, edit, publish and share valuable learning material.

Podcasts allow students to tailor the learning material to suit their needs and construct their own knowledge. Educational ownership is shifting from teachers to students, and becoming more inclusive and free-flowing.

Screencasts Takes Visual Learning Online

Jing is a free online tool for creating screencasts. Teachers can create videos along with narration of tutorials and classes, and upload it to the site or email it to their students. The saved screencasts can be accessed anytime by students.

Students can also upload videos of themselves working on a math problem or conducting an experiment. The online screen recorder tool is widely used in high school classes, and in lectures and presentations.

Students Can Connect with the Wider Community

Social media tools like Twitter make it possible for students to connect with and follow experts and prominent personalities in their fields of interest. This can be highly motivating to a young person and help bring him closer to those he admires and wishes to emulate.

Social networking sites help students build connections with business leaders, top executives in companies, future mentors and professors, fellow achievers from the student community, and recruiters in universities and colleges.

A robust social media presence enables students to share and access valuable content, post about issues and interests they are passionate about, and comment and contribute to discussions.

Students who are active on social networking sites and have plenty of connections and friends also grow to be more influential in the virtual world.


Remember how much care and concern you had when teaching your young child to ride a bike? He requires the same love, care and empathy while you guide him to navigate the choppy, dangerous and murky waters of social media. Be aware and educate yourself first, and thereby teach your child better.

Carole Thompson is the Community Manager at Math Genie, making Math fun for kids with the help of the Abacus Math program, successfully tutoring over 1,000 students by building a strong foundation of mathematical concepts.

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