As a society, we have become constant consumers of information. From the minute we wake up to the time we go to bed, we are constantly bombarded with information. Whereas our ancestors from only a few generations ago had to wait to go to town to catch the latest gossip, get their hands on a book, or pick up the newspaper to get the latest news, it is instantaneous in the social media day and age. However, what we are consuming can either benefit us and help us grow or fill our minds with endless garbage.
Looking at studies this trend of digital overconsumption doesn’t start with screenagers but even toddlers are getting nearly an hour a day in front of digital screens. And from there the amount of time young kids through adults spend on their phones continues to rise. Whether it is Snapchat, Instagram, or Youtube for children and young adults or Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for adults, we are all guilty of this trend to be constantly “liking”, “snapping”, or “pinning” our favorite content. So as schools and educational communities, what can be done to adapt to this new way of consuming content and information?
For starters we need to teach students to be good consumers of digital content. Studies show that teenagers spend on average nine hours a day on social media or other forms of digital consumption. (From a somewhat dated article from The Washington Post, “Teens Spend Nearly Nine Hours Every Day Consuming Media”) If ⅓ of a student’s days is spent on their device why not encourage students to take time each day to close the Snapchat app and read a trusted news site? Teachers can take a minute at the end of each class period and share a blog post, TED Talk, ebook, or inspirational video for them to consume after class. Have them google something they are passionate about and start collecting resources where they can learn something new in an subject that excites them. Never before in the history of humans has so much knowledge been at our fingertips and it is only a simple Google search away.
But as educators, it cannot only be about consuming content. Students need to learn how to create content worth sharing. Ask any kid over the age of six where they go to find information on how to do something and nearly everyone of them will say YouTube. Whether it be how to solve a Rubik’s cube, instructional videos on Parkour, or strategies on winning their next Pokemon card game they know how and where to find this information. Our challenge to them needs to be how to create this content to share with the world and not just for “likes”, “views”, or “pins”. Sure we all like it when a picture or blog post is viewed hundreds or thousands of times, but the art of creating and sharing your talent for others to learn from needs to be the true lesson.
One would be remiss to write a post about social media use without mentioning digital citizenship and internet safety. Now more than ever this needs to be a constant focus when speaking with students about any of these digital consumption and creation topics. From being kind, appropriate postings, when to post, or when not say anything at all, these lessons need to be continually reinforced with those that are most vulnerable to the dangers our internet world possesses.
So as you finish off that last piece of pumpkin pie, settle in your favorite chair, and more than likely pick up your device from some after dinner consumption, ponder how you yourself can become not only a consumer but creator of content. Will it be that long overdue blog you’ve been meaning to start? A new pinterest board with your favorite family recipes? A YouTube channel with healthy living tips? A Facebook fan page with your best photos with tips on taking better pictures? We all have our own skills and talents we can share with the world. No longer can we be just a consumer of digital content but strive to be a creator who gives back as well.