Schools say social media a tool, not terror for young students - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Schools say social media a tool, not terror for young students

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The class learning about social media. The class learning about social media.
One way social media and the class connect. One way social media and the class connect.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Over the last five years, the number of kids using social media has sky rocketed. One recent poll showed 22 percent of teens log onto their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day. Some warn it can be a disturbing trend, but not necessarily one parents they need be afraid of.

Inside Karen Stone's Kindergarten class at Chancey Elementary in northeast Louisville, it's reading, writing, 'rythmatic and twitter. Through grants and special technology purchased by JCPS, Stone is able to teach her 5 and 6 year old students about all sorts of social media, from twitter to you tube.

"They came into the world exposed," Stone said. "They're living a life where they don't know anything but iPhones, android phones," and the social media that come with those devices.

Whether it's a "post" or a "tweet." A "pin" or a "space" social media has changed the way people talk, think and connect. And Linda McCarthy believes the increased use comes with dangerous consequences.

"Some of the statistics shows really that there are a lot of teens and 'tweens that just might not be, really mature enough," said McCarthy, promoting a new book about cyberspace safety called "Own Your Space." You can download that book for free, here.

McCarthy said 62 percent of teens have witnessed cruel behavior on line. Another study found 20 percent of teens have texted or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. And UK researchers warn of a growing problem with so called "Facebook depression. where teens or 'tweens spend so much time on Facebook it becomes an addiction that interferes with their daily life.

"It's really important for us to teach kids about the reality of cyberspace," McCarthy said.

But not everyone agrees what should that lesson should really be. Some educators see social media not as a terror, but a tool.

"Students can now share how they learn and what they learn during their school day using social media," said Chancey principal Ronda Cosby, who drives the use of social media for all 750 of her students at Chancey. She's not the only one to see the value in it.

A Harvard study found "electronic media has great educational potential" for teens. And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees writing "engaging in social media...is shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection and technical skills."

Even those warning of the dangers say there is no where, or way, to hide.

"That's certainly not going to work," McCarthy said, "Because I don't know about you but when I was a kid my mother told me not to go to the mall, I went."

Instead, the American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to:

  • talk with their kids about the specific dangers teens face
  • close the technology gap by learning and understanding the social media kids are using
  • keep track of what kids are posting online and make sure they understand what's appropriate and what's not
  • and emphasize healthy behavior while avoiding punishment unless it's really called for

"I think it seems to be a staple in our society at this point," said Harley Morris, who's five year old son is in Stone's class. "And I think that it's something that can be used positively."

To read more tips about how to monitor your child's social media use, click here.

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