Well, I’m not actually, but I do get asked to speak on radio shows most weeks to give an opinion on social media issues when there’s something in the news about it.
Today, I was asked to speak on Talk Radio on the Julia Hartley-Brewer show because Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said that “internet firms such as Facebook and Google should be threatened with the law as they are ‘turning a blind eye’ to their impact on children” as there are increased concerns about the effect of such things a cyberbullying and questions about whether social media is good for our mental health long term.
Anyway, I managed to get myself in to a debate/argument with the host of the show because we didn’t agree what the course of action should be.
Her view was that children’s access to social media channels should be restricted and postponed for as long as possible. She also said that this should be a legislative process and the responsibility of the social media companies/parents.
My view was that this was an education issue and I would like to expand on that…
School is supposed to be preparing our children for the world which they are going to enter. If you watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk you will see that in his expert opinion school doesn’t do that any longer, we are educating children (generally) for a world which no longer exists.
Social media is part of the new world (not the old world) and to not educate children from an early age to engage and manage their online presence seems foolish. To put in place restrictions on how social media is used seems at best shortsighted even when considered from the perspective of the public’s own safety (like the man with the red flag walking in the road in front of early cars – he was there to protect the public).
The problem is that we should be teaching children to embrace social media and the internet rather than be scared of it and we’re simply not doing this. The internet and social media are here to stay and those who truly understand and embrace it are an an incredible advantage over those who don’t. And the problem is that the people who are advising do not themselves understand the full ramifications of this environment as we saw when Mark Zuckerberg was quizzed by the Senate “how can you sustain a business model in which you don’t charge for your services”…for example. It shows a profound lack of understanding of the (not so)new economy. Now I’m not saying that these people are trying to do anything other than what they consider to be the right thing. Even “good” advice that can be given with much kindness, as Eduardo Saverin’s paternal advice shows, “don’t give up your education to follow Mark [Zuckerberg] on his crazy quest, finish college and qualify as a lawyer…” can be proven to be profoundly wrong.
My view is that using the internet and social media should be part of the core syllabus in mainstream education because in 2018 and in the future I suspect that for most human beings understanding the ramifications of what you post, how to manage your personal (and business) profile online and how to spot opportunities in the online world is likely to be significantly more applicable than being able to name the different allotropes of sulphur. The fact remains that basic chemistry is taught (and history, religious studies, languages, physics, biology, geography…) but “the internet world” is not.
If we want to prepare our children for the global challenges we face we must also prepare them to use the tools of the global infrastructure we have. To not show them the realities of what social media is and how it works would be akin to denying the existence of the telephone, television or the motor car.
So there need to be a change and fast otherwise we are failing our young people in a major way.
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