• 12+ years Creative Director of The Pedagogs - Award winning PSHE paper products for schools
• Creative Director and co-founder of Natterhub - A Relationships and Social Media Tool for Primary Teachers
• 15+ years Teaching and SLT experience in UK, Barcelona and Hong Kong, currently KS1 Pastoral Lead at Hall Grove School
We, as adults, can be genuinely empathetic to the majority of emotions and situations that our children will experience as they grow up, as we have usually been there before and stood in their shoes in our own childhoods. However, we are living in an age where there is one aspect of our children’s lives that we have never had experience of as a child growing up because that ‘world’ had not been imagined let alone created until recently.
The introduction of social media has dramatically changed the face of childhood and the pressures of growing up have been acutely affected by this new pervasive facet of society. We do not yet understand the long-term impact of growing up in an online community that is effectively lawless.
These recent statistics provide a call to action:
· 76% of people, in the UK, have a social media account.
· Over 80% of businesses use social media to promote their products
· 1/6 children have shared an image within the last hour*
· Nearly a third (27.6 per cent) of young people in the UK were 6 years old or younger when they first used the Internet.
· Young people in the UK are extensive users of social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. 94.8 per cent of 15 year olds in the UK used social media for over three hours on social media on a normal school day. **
There are many positive reasons to become an effective social networker and a savvy IT user and these skills are fast becoming invaluable in the workplace. Moreover, in order for our children to grow in to happy adults and be nurtured in a world where social media is so important, we need to ensure that they are mentally robust and acutely discerning about how to navigate their online lives. Some of the negative aspects of maintaining an online persona are a skill set that may need to be extrinsically taught to our children.
It is well documented that emotional wellbeing and cognitive development are symbiotic***. If you agree with the research that has found a strong link between academic success and emotional well-being then this would imply that the focus in Education should be centred on developing smart, confident young learners who then have the cognitive capabilities to navigate their real and virtual worlds safely and successfully. If the UK education system is to properly encourage and support wellbeing, PHSE and Relationship and Sex Education ought to be at the very heart of the curriculum.
This may seem at odds with the overtly results based criteria that Ofsted use to measure success in schools but it is precisely the cognitive abilities of our learners that will benefit from a curriculum that gives our children the tools to learn and feel valued in a modern world.
If the UK education system is to properly encourage and support wellbeing, we need to place our future generation’s happiness at the heart of the curriculum. We need to ensure that schools are properly equipping our children with adequate social media guidelines, effective schemes of work for digital citizenship and educational frameworks that mirror their digital lives outside of the classroom. Rather than being fearful of the childhood this generation of children are living in, how exciting to be a part of the change that can turn this around.