High school students are bombarded with reminders about the growing importance of their social media presence and the image it conveys to others. When used properly, social media can positively impact college, graduate school, scholarship, internship and employment opportunities.
In her article, Surprise! Social media can help, not hurt, your college prospects, Kelly Wallace of CNN reports "how often college admissions officers say social media positively impacts a prospective student's application, as opposed to reducing their chances of admission." According to a recent Kaplan survey, thirty-five percent of college admissions said they check social media during the admissions process. Of those who said they look at a student's social media networks, a larger number said the review benefited the applicant: Forty-seven percent said what they found had a positive impact on prospective students versus 42% who said what they discovered had a negative impact.
This important trend is not limited to college admissions either. This trend also applies to employment where, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, the number of employers using social media to screen candidates has increased 500 percent over the last decade. Moreover, 41 percent of the managers surveyed say they were less likely to interview someone they can’t find online. More to point, Knowledge @ Wharton argues "the extent to which individuals have established a strong and compelling online presence is having an impact on who gets the interview and job."
What these trends show is that social media is much more than a nuisance that needs to be regulated. Schools can no longer manage social media activities out of ignorance. Administrators, counselors and faculty must come to terms with social media as the important developmental and communication platform it has become. Students need to be taught how the broadcast social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+ play an integral role in their overall development and preparation for college and career pursuits.
Unfortunately, social media does not come with an instruction manual nor does use, in and of itself, make one digitally savvy. Like other communication skills, social media is a learned skill and proactive social media education is required to develop 21st century digital life skills and fluency for student success in a digital world.
The scant social media education offered by schools today either in connection with CTE programs or college and career readiness starts from the wrong place. Mantras of "be nice online" and "only post items your grandmother would approve" provide guidance on what not to post to mitigate negative outcomes. This approach has had a chilling effect on how students view social media. Without a higher calling for social media, most students have heeded this advice and moved their social media activities to Snapchat, After School, Whisper, Tumblr, Ask.fm and other social media platforms that falsely promise our teens disappearance, privacy and anonymity. The end result of this misguided migration is a noticeable void of compelling and reflective content on platforms where colleges and employers will expect to find student content.
Students must be taught the fundamental rules of social media platforms, how to establish their digital identities, how to purposefully build an authentic and reflective social media presence, how to engage in social conversations, and how to network in the digital world. These are the topics covered in Social Assurity's suite of social media education based eCourses.
Social media is a tool for life. Why not teach students to use it wisely?