If schools use social media, it’s usually for external communication - using platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to post updates for parents and the wider community. The idea of using social media internally, or even encouraging pupils to explore it, has long been considered unthinkable. Nick Gibb, the Minister for School Standards, has even advocated for a total ban on smartphones
and other devices in schools.
Learning to use the internet is a lot like learning to swim. Some children take to the water faster than others, but it would be risky to throw a child straight into the deep end of a pool when teaching them how to swim. Yet this is exactly what we do by giving children devices and allowing them unfettered access to the internet before they’re savvy and sceptical enough to navigate it safely.
More importantly, young people are acutely aware
that they need these crucial skills to thrive online. 46% feel that their time spent on screens is having a negative impact on other parts of their lives, including their mental and physical health. However, nearly a third also feel like they’re unable to go to their parents or teachers with a problem that they have online.
Trying to remove new technology from schools is like trying to hold back the tide. Social media is an integral - and useful - part of our everyday lives. If we don’t acknowledge it in schools, children will find other means of exploring the digital world on their own, before they’re ready to do so. At Natterhub, our approach stems from the fundamental idea that social media is to be safely embraced rather than feared.
We believe that mimicry can be a compelling route for learning, and we need to explicitly model social media in order to both extol its potentials and avoid its pitfalls. That’s why our gated platform was designed from the ground up to resemble a traditional social network, complete with the ability to post and leave comments, ‘clap’ other people’s content, and upload photos and videos. In addition, our interactive lessons introduce concepts of digital citizenship to children by grounding them in real-world experiences or stories that children are familiar with - early on, we examine the concept of users hiding behind fake online avatars by discussing the Big Bad Wolf dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother!
When we give them real reasons to learn and opportunities that relate closely to their real-life experiences, pupils are more likely to reflect on their own behaviour, resulting in learning that is deeper and more impactful. Showing them concrete examples of the internet in action, with examples of both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, will make them more resilient, and ultimately safer.