Cyber awareness – the impact of social media

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Social media permeates today’s society with most of us engrossed, some would argue to the point of unhealthy addiction, in the latest happenings via apps such as Facebook and Twitter and for many youngsters Snapchat and Instagram, to name but a few. Here is how British International School deals with the challenge of social media:

At BSKL, we embrace this modern day phenomenon. However, we do so with caution and education. We know that our students are extremely ‘technologically literate’, have never known a time without the internet, have access to information at the click of a button and are able to share and receive information immediately. This is the modern world, and so we embrace it. We do so as the benefits can, given the correct education, far outweigh the negatives and that to not do so could mean an unhappy divide within any community, school or otherwise.

The benefits of social media use

Although cautious, we are conscious of the many benefits of social media use to our students, us as a school and our community. These benefits include opportunities for socialisation and communication beyond the school and it’s classrooms which can, and do, foster an enhanced sense of community and social responsibility.

The information that is readily available at our fingertips provides us with increased global and cultural awareness and enhanced learning opportunities beyond the classroom.We have access to an increasing amount of health information to be able to understand further our bodies, minds and own health. Finally, for every young person, indeed for most of us, to disconnect entirely from social media in this modern world would be, in essence, social suicide.

A note of caution

Whilst the development of social media has been largely positive this does come with notes of caution. The social media culture sees many of us fall into the routine of ‘eat, sleep, check social media ..’. As a society many of us live for posting every event and comment on various forms of social media.

For our students in particular this can yield many problems. One real problem is addiction to social media leading to depression. Teenagers in particular are susceptible to using social media to compare themselves to others whether positive or negative. They turn to internet sites for help and advice. This in turn can lead to self-harm, substance misuse and general aggressive behaviour.

Many students experience serious elements of cyber bullying via social media platforms. This is true in all sections of society. Comments made easily in the faceless world of social media can have a hugely negative effect on individuals. Students develop an over sensitive need to seek affirmation from those on social media, checking the amount of ‘likes’ the may have; they take too seriously comments made on posted photos and can ultimately suffer as they fall into a trap of competitive element to ‘streaks’ on snapchat.

Advice, guidance and education to students at BSKL

Recently we have worked with students in the secondary school on the concept of digital tattoo. A digital tattoo refers to the posts that are placed online being permanent. This works on the theory that a tattoo is permanent, much like the information we post online: the photos we share, the comments we write, the videos we ‘like’. Even if we delete them, they may still be out there – saved and shared by others, or even kept by the site or app itself.

The work conducted very much focuses on being aware of responsible ‘sharing’ and privacy and in essence creating a positive profile or ‘tattoo’, liking and sharing information that will provide a positive perception of you as an individual.

This work has been completed during very valuable PSHE lessons and year group assemblies. Moving forward the work will continue via tutor group work and will include all students taking part in cyber awareness workshops. These will be delivered by a specialist company, Bluephish.org, visiting BSKL. The workshops will provide a basis for work that can be revisited throughout the year and during PSHE lessons. In addition, they will be holding both teacher and parent workshops.

Spotting worrying signs in adolescents

With an increase in teenage addiction to social media and, as mentioned, the potential for significant effects on wellbeing and mental health, it’s important that  we understand and can recognise any significant signs. Signs of potential addiction can include;

  • Anxiety or aggression when separated from their phone, tablet or computer
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Being tired, unfocused or sleepy
  • Spending more time with ‘virtual’ friends than real friends
  • Spending a lot of time in their bedroom
  • Spending many hours playing computer games
  • School grades suffering
  • Staying up very late to do homework

The role of the parent

The role of the parent is paramount in managing and supporting students in their understanding and use of both social media and cyber use. Whilst students regard their peers as both important and influential, the parent will remain as the most influential person in a young person’s life. It’s important to consider what kind of role models are we presenting as the constant adult? Teenagers require clear guidance within the home, boundaries that are set and adhered to. Highly supportive and open relationships from an early age are advised and can certainly be beneficial.

There are many simple methods and changes that can help in supporting teenagers and parents in their relationships when it comes to social media and cyber use. Simple methods such as:

  • As parents, educate yourselves about devices and the specific media your children are using
  • Ask them to help educate you on how to use apps and accounts
  • Ask to regularly see their social media accounts
  • Insist that they ‘invite’ or ‘friend’ you on any accounts they may have.
  • Monitor and take charge of their use of technology i.e. technology curfew in the home, no technology in the bedroom beyond a certain time.
  • Internet use curfew in the home – either an app that limits device use or as a family ‘pledge’ not to use internet beyond a certain time.
  • Establish rules and consequences around the use of technology.
  • Family ‘technology free’ time – Spend time discussing school, friendships, interests and plans for family time at evenings, weekends and holidays.

Interesting articles

Text: British International School of Kuala Lumpur.

This post is sponsored by the British International School of Kuala Lumpur.

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