Need, Not Want

Social media education is a 21st-century life skill that must be taught in high school.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jamie Finch

CREDIT Social AssurityEvery 14 year old should be on LinkedIn.

And Twitter.

And Facebook.

And Instagram.

And Pinterest.

Parents and educators will be shocked to hear that their high school students need to be on social media platforms to ensure their future success. This assertion is not an opinion, it is a fact.

  • 93 percent of recruiters and employers consider your social media presence when making hiring decisions.
  • 40 percent of college admissions officers consider a student’s social media presence as vital to their college application.
  • 92 percent of high school students are on social media platforms everyday.

These statistics tell us that people are looking at, making decisions from, and determining our students future success with information that almost no high school student is proactively providing. 

A lack of social media education not only diminishes a student’s 21st-century skillset, but it hinders their future higher education and career opportunities.

Without education, students will lack essential skills to build a robust and impressive digital presence in support of their college, scholarship, internship and job activities. Research indicates that 40 percent of college admissions officers consider a student’s social media presence to be a vital part of their application. This staggering number is at least doubled when students invite admissions officers to view their social media and still schools do not regard social media for academic or career advantage. Our students have the attention of almost half of admissions officers and yet go unrecognized or under recognized online because they lack social media education and training.

Colleges are not looking for reasons to reject applicants; they are looking to learn more about the students who are all equally qualified. 

The flawed logic of not teaching social media education extends beyond the realm of high school, affecting college and employment opportunities. Colleges use social media to find students, they advertise to students and try to interact and engage with applicants, yet schools advise students to stay away from social media and instruct students that if they are going to be on social media platforms, it should be in a sanitized form.

The statistics are even greater when you look at employment. Research shows that 93 percent of recruiters and employers consider social media your virtual resume, employers are recruiting socially and schools are not preparing students to get a job using this medium. With almost 30 percent of high school students going directly into the workforce upon graduation, how many will miss out on gainful employment opportunities without social media education?

One of the best comparisons to make about social media education and high school students is social media’s similarity to driving. Students are taught the rules of safe driving, spend time behind the wheel, and take school offered drivers education courses. When students complete this lengthy course of study, there are tests to quantify the knowledge they have gained and their ability to safely navigate a car.

Can you imagine giving a teenager the keys to a car without any guidance, or with only the warning of “Be safe”? Would we expect police officers to visit our schools and talk to our students about safe driving without actually teaching those students how to drive safely?

No! These actions would be deemed reckless and would not be tolerated; yet we give our children phones, tablets, and other devices that allow them to communicate with anyone, anywhere and with life altering consequences, all without any formal education. We know that driving is an essential skill, but an equally important 21st century skill, is social media education, it is essential for students to be safe and successful online. Would we tell high school students that the best thing for them is not to drive at all since driving could be hazardous? Statistics show us that driving causes injury and death, so it stands to reason that students should simply not drive in order to avoid risk, right?

This logic is obviously flawed and would not work; the same can be said for social media education. Telling students to stay off of social media in order to circumvent the perils associated with it is as efficient as telling students not to drive, and not teaching students how to master their online persona is as reckless as giving them the keys to a car without any driving education.

A lack of social media education not only diminishes a student’s 21st-century skillset, but it hinders their future higher education and career opportunities.

Social media will be used to evaluate a student for college admissions, employment, housing, spouses, friendships, financial stability, and more. We cannot as parents, educators, and concerned communities continue to give the keys to our children without proper education.

Jamie Finch is an advocate with Social Assurity, an organization committed to providing students and professionals with social media education in order to increase access to college and career opportunities. Contact: jamie@socialassurity.com

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