Worrisome Adolescent Behavior
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that 86 teens intentionally ingested laundry pods between January 1st and 21st. Despite efforts by adults and the laundry brand to curb the online trend, the dare is at an all-time high. This is not the first online challenge, and it will certainly not be the last where teens engage in intentional self-injury for social media glory.
When teenagers partake in risk-taking behaviors, adults in their lives often want to find out who or what is responsible and separate these causes from the children. In the pursuit to protect our children, adults often have knee-jerk reactions. Some stop buying laundry tabs, but others decide to ban the Internet, YouTube, or some other social media. One might argue that laundry pods are convenient when teaching kids and teens to do their own laundry. But I have to say that banning something like technology goes against my very nature as a librarian. Especially when I am fighting so hard to provide access to information.
Signe Whitson makes a great point in her article Why Banning Social Media Is Not the Best Answer for Kids.
“… adults do kids a frightening dis-service by banning the use of technology outright. At best, this head-in-the-sand approach ill-prepares kids to deal with the world in which they live and at worst, it creates a fervor among these young people to get their hands on social media in sneaky, risky ways.”
We have all seen what banning a book does for circulation of the banned books. I have noticed when you ban technology and social media there is indeed a “fervor” that drives students underground.
Role Models In and Out of the Classroom
Some educators may brag that they don’t really pay attention to social media. This is sad to me because they are discounting an important part of their students’ lives. Just three years ago Pew and the Internet reported that 73% of teens had a smartphone and 41% of teens were on Snapchat and half of teens were on Instagram. When you ignore the technology platform it becomes a teacherless classroom. We need teachers of all ages in the social space [online] teaching about honesty, courage, and respect. How? Not necessarily befriending young people as peers, we instead need to provide positive role models of not just “appropriate” but honest, courageous, and respectful behavior online!
Educational Social Media
YouTube has a number of educational resources that we can share with students that don’t involve a call to Poison Control. Khan Academy, the Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, and the Scishow just to name a few. Almost anything technical you want to do, you can find video instructions online.
Library and Book Social Media
YouTube also has a plethora of library and book-related resources. Bill Gates uploads a summer and holiday reading list to YouTube. Also, teachers and students from all over produce book trailers that are fun and informative. For your mature YA readers, Comic Book Girl 19 creates clever reviews and movie/book comparisons. Instagram is my favorite social media app for book-related posts. I just love #bookfacefriday and other clever library promotions. Additionally, almost every YA author has an Instagram account.
Just Beautiful Social Media
I like to tell students about beautiful things that I find on social media. Some really cool young people who I follow on Instagram are Hannah Alper, Marley Dias, Madeline Stuart, Joshua Williams, and Robby aka “Kid President.” Some just plain beautiful accounts include Murad and Nataly Osmann with the Follow Me project, Dana Fox’s Wonderforest, National Geographic and all of their photographers, and of course Humans of New York.
Social Media Challenges for Good
The solution to curbing harmful and destructive social media campaigns is replacing them with positive campaigns. Who knows what will catch on in the future. Raising money or awareness for a good cause is always an option. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised millions for the cause. Another option is the 100 Days of Happy Challenge. You could also challenge students to come up with an idea themselves.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.