Let’s face it – teens are spending a lot of time on media related activity. A recent study says that teens actually spend 80% of their Internet time on Social Networks. It’s the end of summer and it’s time to get ready for school. Will the start of the new school year keep young people from spending much of their time on Facebook – probably not. How do we encourage kids to use social networks safely and responsibly? Is it really possible for youth to learn how to communicate effectively from a 140-character tweet? Sure they can. There are actually a growing number of educators that are embracing social media. In fact, the American Library Association discourages schools and libraries from barring social media – such exclusion “does not teach safe behavior and leaves youth without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect their privacy or engage in responsible speech.”
Not only is encouraging the use of social media among young people beneficial as it relates to bringing copyright and privacy awareness to teens, writing thoughts and ideas in 420 or 120 characters or less is indeed a skill. Writers, especially journalists know the importance of being concise in their storytelling. At the time of this post, Reader’s Digest announced a contest that gives you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to Publish Your Life Story… in 150 words or fewer. The prize - $25,000! We’re already telling “our story” on social networks through tweets, pictures, blogs, vlogs, etc. And the stories are being told in 420 characters or less on Facebook and less than 140 characters on Twitter. Therefore, we should be able to tell our story in 150 words or less with our eyes closed.
So for all of you social media specialists, donate an hour or more of your time to educate a young person on how to use social media effectively. Let's teach writing skills that can help students write better papers, complete college applications more effectively and even land that dream job after college. Below are a few career options in which strong writing skills are required:
• Journalism • Reporting • Public Relations • Publishing • Communications • Marketing
Parents, check your local library for social media workshops offered at low or no cost. There also might be course offerings at a college or university in your area. Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, therefore, let’s embrace it and educate youth on how to use it effectively.