The Dangers of Social Media?

Or educating by fear?

The daThe Dangers of Social Mediangers of social media is an experiment shown in a YouTube video (you can see it below) by a popular contributor, Coby Persin, and so far it has had just under 30 million views.  Essentially it’s an experiment where Coby sets up a false Facebook profile and starts chatting with some teenage girls in order to see if they will meet him in the real world.

I can completely understand the need to raise awareness; as a parent I completely understand the reactions of the parents too, but watching The Dangers of Social Media raised some questions with me:

  • What is the context and balance.  In other words, how many DIDN’T meet up in comparison to those who did?  How many young girls did Coby have to Friend?
  • What was the nature of the Facebook conversations?
  • The emotional trauma inflicted on these young girls is questionable, particularly girl number 3.  Was any consideration given to this?  It appears not.

Can (or should) this type of video be used in the classroom or shown to parents on a parents evening?

Well, there’s always split opinion on this one, so here’s my opinion:

As a means of education, in other words, “watch this to see why you should never talk to, and meet strangers,” it’s a definite ‘no!’

As a means of debate?  That could work, as long as you’re absolutely clear about balance and context.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Take a few minutes and explain to the class the subject: the dangers of social media.  Be clear that this is a lesson where you are looking for critical thinking for opinion, thoughts and discussion.  Start them off with questions, such as:
    • Is this realistic?  (It’s obviously real as it actually happened, but realistic is different).
    • What are your thoughts after viewing this?
    • What would your YouTube comment be?
    • Should this have been carried out?
  • Do the same across all classes or year groups, and run a poll (use something like Survey Monkey or if you’ve got a poll widget set up on your blog).  Compare the poll results and look for differences in opinion, for example based on age, gender etc.
  • Ask students, ‘What would be a better way to learn about the dangers of social media?” or , “How would you have done this differently?”
  • Share the video, questions and poll results with parents.  Let them know what the learning objectives and outcomes were.  It shows that you are being pro-active and they will learn from this too.

Note: Before you show any video such as this one to students consider their age, and make sure they’re aware that if they have found the video traumatizing they can speak to you (or somebody else) privately.

Watch the video and leave me your comment on Twitter or Facebook.  Have you done something similar at school to raise awareness?

Don’t forget to sign up to the free e-safety newsletter for schools and for parents where I will also share thoughts and opinions on these matters.