Tag Archives: Twitter

How to Block Spoilers in Your Newsfeed

By Tracey Dowdy

 It’s a first-world problem for sure, but there are few things more frustrating for fans of a long-running TV show or movie series than being hit with spoilers before you’ve been able to watch the show yourself.

With the series finale of Game of Thrones set to air this Sunday night, “the mood is dark, and the internet is full of spoilers” to poorly paraphrase Melisandre, may she rest in peace.

But there is hope, not just for avoiding GoT spoilers, but spoilers for any television or movie you’ve yet to see. Follow these steps to block spoilers on your phone, laptop, and tablet, though there’s not much we can do about that guy from the office who can’t keep his spoiler-spilling mouth shut – you know who you are dude.

One option is to download an app or extension that will screen and block spoiler content for you. For Chrome, choose an extension like Spoiler Prevention 2.0 that will prevent specific content from appearing on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even on news sites like CNN. iPhone and Android users can download Spoiler Block, and Android users have the additional option of using Spoilers Blocker. Just type in the keywords you want to be blocked, and the app will filter any related content.

Twitter: The trick here is to mute keywords and accounts tied to the content.

  • Tap the notifications icon in the app. On a desktop, click Settings > privacy.
  • On an Android and desktop, select Muted Words. On an iPhone, choose Muted > Muted words.
  • Tap Add on iPhone and desktop, or the +icon on an Android. Select the words you know will lead to spoilers – e.g., Game of Thrones, Danaerys, Jon Snow, etc., and any accounts for the show or movie, e.g., HBO
  • Select to mute these words from your Timeline, Notifications and anyone posting content to you. You can choose how long you want the content muted to mute content from 24 hours up to indefinitely.
  • Tap Save

Facebook: You can temporarily snooze Friends or Groups on Facebook. Simply locate the person or Group you want to block. On your phone or computer, tap the three dots in the corner. Select Snooze (person’s name/group) for 30 days. You can always go back and un-snooze if you don’t need the full 30 days. If you’re really serious, you can temporarily deactivate your account. Go to Settings > Manage Account > Deactivate your Account. You’ll be asked to give a reason, and if this is just short-term, choose “This is temporary, I’ll be back.” 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Facebook or Fakebook? The Problem with Fake News

By Tracey Dowdy

Let’s play a game. How about “Two Truths and a Lie”? I’ll share three headlines from the last three months before the election and you decide which two are true and which one is a lie. Remember, all three are published news stories, but one is from a fake news site. Ready? Here we go:

A. “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hilary Clinton”
B. “It’s Over: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked and It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined”
C. “Trump Sees Dead People: Promises Crowd He’ll Bring Joe Paterno Back from the Grave”

So which headline is from a fake news story? It’s B – the headline from an article published by Ending the Fed, a site notorious for its completely unreliable content. In fact, Ending the Fed is responsible for four of the top ten fake election stories shared by users on Facebook.

So much fake news has been shared on Facebook that Paul Horner, the man who created an entire fake news empire on Facebook has stated, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.” Turns out he’s not the only one that feels fake news had an impact on the election or that the amount of fake news being generated has risen exponentially in the past few months.

Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Political Science at Dartmouth College who researches political misinformation and fact-checking says, “I’m troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news…Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it.”

Considering that over 60 percent of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, there’s a huge amount of false information being shared and accepted at face value. “During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyper-partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.” (Buzzfeed, 2016).

Did you catch that? Fake news did better than real news among Facebook users.

When I was a kid, papers like the National Enquirer were the gold-standard of fake news. Bat Boy, Bigfoot and alien abductions were its stock in trade. The difference was we knew it was mostly fake with the occasional fact thrown in. Today, the fake news hides in plain sight, we just aren’t looking for it nor are we pushing back against it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has stated he thinks fake news shared on Facebook had little effect on the election but nobody seems to be buying his position. In fact, it undermines his earlier claims that Facebook as a platform is an agent of change and has been influential on the world stage. Columbia University student Karen K. Ho tweeted, “Facebook and Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections.”

In response, five Facebook employees have launched their own investigation. “It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him (Zuckerberg) to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows,

and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division.

Still, at the end of the day, Facebook is simply the vehicle. We are in the driver’s seat. If we want to stop the proliferation of fake news, it is our responsibility as news consumers to look to verifiable and legitimate sources and, for the love of all that’s good and right, don’t believe everything you read!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Taking Control of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

Ever feel like social media is more work than it is worth? Does FOMO push you to constantly update or check your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr…I’m exhausted just typing that!

Maybe it’s time to take control of your social media presence instead of having it control you.

Curate your accounts

Stop and consider which aspects of social media are valuable to you and then cull the herd. Trying to stay connected to professional opportunities and trends? Go with LinkedIn. Looking to stay connected to family and friends? Facebook has well over a billion active users every month. Looking for an unfiltered, real time micro-feed of what’s happening? Choose Twitter. The key is to choose unique platforms whose features don’t overlap.

Change your habits

Is checking your phone the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night? Studies have shown that the blue light from your screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s time to get up and though you may think you’re mindlessly browsing, your brain is engaged, constantly scanning information, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Maybe you’re constantly distracted during the day, constantly checking in to see how many “Likes” the picture of your lunch got.

It’s easy to get sucked into a black hole and realize what started as a search for “Best streaming devices” has left you watching videos of models falling on the runway for the past 45 minutes. Time to change things up. Consider leaving your phone in another room at night or setting boundaries like, “I can check my Facebook after I finish these three tasks.” Little changes can make a big difference in your productivity and overall satisfaction.

Curate your feed

Take the time to go through your contacts and decide who still matters. It may sound cold, but if you’re no longer working at Company A, do you still need to have their team building posts show up in your feed? Is there someone whose posts only serve to irritate or make you feel inadequate? Time to let it go. Eliminating the accounts that are irrelevant or annoying is liberating. Not only will you no longer see their feeds, the algorithms social networks use intuitively curate your feed in such a way that you’ll see more of what is meaningful to you. Plus, it’s not as time consuming as it sounds. Apps like Crowdfire will collate your accounts and let you unfollow in bulk, while others like SproutSocial will help you search for sites and individuals that are relevant to your interests.

Schedule posts

Sites like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Buffer can help you organize and manage your accounts. Create and schedule your updates from one location, once a day or once a week. Obviously you can jump in to make changes or post updates at any time, but they’re a great way regain control and simplify your life.

Manage Notifications

Do you really need to know every time one of your friends posts on social media? For some, it’s a welcome distraction but for others it’s well, just a distraction, minus the welcome. Take five minutes to go to your settings and turn off notifications for any – or all – those feeds. You’ll be surprised at how little you miss them.

Take a break

Finally, consider stepping back and disconnecting. A constant stream of information can become overwhelming and the good starts to get muddied by the irrelevant and the irritating. A break even for a day or two can help you reset, leaving you refreshed instead of overloaded. Disengaging may seem like a frightening prospect, but that’s also a reflection of how deep that addiction runs.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Funny Twitter Accounts All Parents Should Follow

By Tracey Dowdy

It didn’t take long after my first daughter was born to learn the secret to surviving parenthood is a sense of humor. God makes babies adorable so we can forgive them for POW levels of sleep deprivation; toddlers are really just tiny frat boys stumbling around, shouting incoherently, peeing wherever they choose; and teenagers flip flop between making us oh so proud and making us wonder why we didn’t just get a dog when we longed for the pitter patter of tiny feet.

No matter how old your children are, whether you parent one or are mom to your own Little League team, these Twitter accounts can help you see the funny side of parenting – even on days when you feel like your kids should have come with some kind of FDA warning.

@XplodingUnicorn

“My 3-year-old hugged me out of the blue and said, “I love you, Dad.” If you need me, I’ll be searching the house for whatever she broke.”

James Breakwell is dad to four daughters and his tweets about their conversations and day-to-day life as a husband and dad will leave you in stitches.


@byclintedwards

“I’ve never been held hostage, but I have listened to my daughter recount an episode of “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.”

Clint Edwards is the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Parenting. Marriage. Madness.).” His “No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog” is filled with gems like “Lies I’ve Told My Children to Get Them to Try New Foods” and “Crimes Committed by My Toddler,” so both his Twitter and blog are worth following.


@PerfectPending

“I almost made eye contact with my kids when they were playing happily together like some sort of parenting amateur or something.”

With a tagline of “Let’s stop trying to be perfect, and just be the moms we were meant to be”, you can’t help but feel mother of three Meredith is a kindred spirit. She also has a great blog with recipes that kids will actually eat and posts like “There is No Such Thing as Mothering Without Regrets.” It too is worth checking out.


@FoxyWinePocket

“Son: Are you eating pie for breakfast?
Me (eating pie): No. Fruit casserole. Want some?
Son: NO. I hate casserole.
Me (whispers): I know…”

Kathryn Leehane’s irreverent, sometimes inappropriate but totally relatable tweets will drive you to her blog where she shares her “twisted suburban mom stories” and love of “oversharing and Jason Bateman.”


@JennaWrites

I just showered AND shaved AND dried my hair AND put on makeup. I do not believe you that people actually do this every day.”

TED Talk speaker and author of “Everything’s Relative”, and “If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon”, Jenna (not Jenny) McCarthy is cheeky, witty, and honest. She’s also written several children’s books, so you and your kids will soon have the same favorite author.


@HonestToddler

“The park before naptime looks like a Trump rally.”

Honest Toddler started on Twitter, became a blog, is now a book and has remained100% laugh out loud funny each step of the way. Bunmi Latidan is the mama behind the tweets presented from the perspective of an entitled, sassy, clever toddler who likes “attention, cake, television, running & games.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

How Social Media Is Shaping Our News

By Tracey Dowdy

We live in an era when an increasingly large part of the population gets their news via social media. According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, 30 percent of adults look to Facebook as their source for news, while another 10 percent each look to Twitter or YouTube. These numbers are constantly evolving and it’s safe to say they spike during events such as the presidential debates.

As a teen I remember being bored senseless when the news came on, and though my parents would encourage me to pay attention to make me aware of current events, I really couldn’t wait until we could change the channel and watch pretty much anything else.  Part of it was my age and lack of interest in anything that didn’t directly impact my life, and part of it was the delivery – a stern faced, stiff, older man with a clipped and formal delivery. There was a definite disconnect.

Today, as a result of the ubiquity of social media, that same information often comes to us from peers, celebrities, and other pop culture sources. Instead of a disconnect, there’s a feeling of immediacy that makes the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe or the bombing of a MSF hospital in Kunduz seem much closer to home.

Not only are younger people becoming greater consumers of news and current events through social media, they’re also becoming participants by posting their own photos or videos of those current events. Police used videos posted on Facebook to identify Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver and when you consider the impact user generated content had on events like the Darren Wilson verdict or the Arab Spring, the influence of social media is more than obvious.

It’s no surprise that individuals who most closely follow news and current events are also the most engaged in political and social causes. Increased awareness is certainly a positive thing but there’s a danger that not all the information that goes viral is accurate. When Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing there were countless false reports and news updates shared via social media, including one stating the plane had landed safely in Nanning, China. I’ve lost track of the number of reports of Betty White’s passing away and I frequently see “R.I.P. Rue McClanahan,” who in reality died back in 2010. Even big name media outlets like CNN and Fox News sometimes get it wrong and, if nothing else, the Brian Williams debacle taught us to fact check and then fact check again.

It all comes down to critical thinking skills and reminding our kids to check their sources. In fact that’s good advice for all of us. I myself have been guilty of sharing inaccurate news, because I blindly trusted the source who initially shared it. It only takes a moment to fact check and make sure the information is correct but it can take a long time to un-do the damage from a false report. Sometimes the desire to be first overrides the need to be right and we as consumers are the ones who pay for that.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Trends in Teens and Technology

By Tracy Dowdy

As a woman in my 40’s living in the suburbs, marketing aimed at me tends to fall in to the home/lawn/wrinkle and/or grey hair maintenance categories. In other words, things my kids couldn’t care less about.

The same principle applies to social media – if it’s trending or something that appeals to me, my kids aren’t interested. They’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and likely got the tattoo.

Though it started as a way for Harvard University students to connect, and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts, the average Facebook user is now 40.5 years old. Once my generation caught on, Facebook’s “cool factor” dropped significantly.

But just because it’s not the most popular site anymore doesn’t mean teens aren’t using Facebook. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of teens still use Facebook, they’re just using other sites too.social-media-use

Interestingly, socioeconomic status seems to impact which site teens use. Those in households earning less than $50,000 tend to use Facebook more often than other social media, while those in households with an income over $70,000 prefer Snapchat.

When you consider that 73% of teens have smartphones and the fact the average teen sends 3,339 texts a month, suddenly the popularity of apps like Kik and WhatsApp become apparent. Both apps bypass the restraints and cost of traditional texting making their appeal even more understandable.  Video messaging apps like Keek allows users to upload 36 second videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and HeyTell allows instant voice messaging by pressing a giant “hold and speak” button.

Anonymous sharing apps like Whisper, Yik Yak, and Ask.FM, that allow users to ask questions or post confessional texts or images, are utilized by a smaller number of teens with only 13% of girls and 8% boys reporting use.

All this can be very intimidating for parents, caregivers, school counselors or anyone else tasked with providing emotional or peer support for teens. Online bullying frequently rears its ugly head, as does kid-shaming or the lowest of them all, revenge porn.

Keeping up with what your kids are up to is like trying to outrun a zombie, only in this analogy, you’re the zombie. Unless your prey is as old as Facebook, you may have a hard time keeping up.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to have a Tumblr account, join Snapchat or start making Vines. As with every other good parenting strategy, start with a good ol’ conversation. Ask your kids what’s new, what they’re into and see where it leads. Plus, that’s what we’re here for at The Online Mom. We’re all about keeping up with trends in technology and supporting your family’s digital lifestyle. What trends do you want us to look at? Is there a social media platform you don’t understand? It’s right there in our name – The Online Mom. All you have to do is ask.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Networking for Professionals

By Tracey Dowdy

Navigating the waters of social networking can seem more fraught with peril than avoiding Somali pirates. Whether you’re an employee, a small business owner, or you run a multi-national corporation, cultivating and maintaining best practices in social networking is essential in today’s marketplace. Staying on top of what’s trending and how social media is constantly evolving is critical to your continued success.

These simple tips can help you get started or act as a check list for what you’re already doing.

Do separate the professional from the personal. This may seem obvious but photos of your kids, what you had for dinner last night, and your opinion of who should get voted off the island belong on your personal page. Your professional page is all about your brand. Have a clear vision of who you are and stick to that. Be that guy.

Do complete your profiles. If you don’t have time to complete your profile on LinkedIn how are you going to have time to take on a project for a client? First impressions are very important, so make it a priority to go through your social network accounts and ensure they’re complete.

Do keep your profiles up to date. Have you taken additional training? Moved beyond your original market? Changed your logo? Keep your profiles up to date and uniform. Again, it’s all about branding. You want to be consistent.

Do engage with your followers. Sites like HootSuite and PostPlanner are great for helping you consistently upload fresh content to sites like Facebook and Twitter but don’t rely on them exclusively. The key to social networking is in the name – social. There are lots of places on the web to gather news and information but your followers want to hear from you.

Don’t stay in your own bubble. Reach out to your followers. Endorse them on LinkedIn. Share content they’ve posted on Facebook. Retweet them. Endorsement demonstrates you value them as a client or peer and strengthens both your credibility and your network.

Do create a feeling. Social media is all about creating a feeling. Polar bears are actually quite deadly and the only animals that actively hunt humans. Geckos have nothing to do with insurance and garden gnomes don’t travel abroad. Yet those beautiful polar bears have made you choose Coke over Pepsi; that cheeky gecko has boosted sales for Geico; and that roaming gnome – who has his own Twitter account I might add – has achieved cult status for himself as well as significant market share for Travelocity. Never underestimate the power of feelings.

Don’t post without proofreading. Mistakes in spelling and grammar will make you look totally unprofessional. If spelling isn’t your strong suit, remember spell check is everyone’s friend, but even then be wary and check your work. As an example, my co-worker recently posted an endorsement of our colleague Elisabeth on our corporate Facebook page by describing her as having a “sweet and genital nature”. Suffice to say, proofreading is important.

#Don’tAbuseOrOveruseHashtags Tweets with hashtags perform twice as well as those without but don’t get carried away. Twitter itself recommends no more than two hashtags in a tweet but on Instagram, the rule seems to be the more the merrier. In fact, posts with eleven or more hashtags seem to do the best. But over on Facebook the rules change again as posts without hashtags rank the highest.

Do give credit where credit is due. Heard a clever quote? Found a brilliant marketing hack? Read a great article filled with valuable tips on social networking? Then by all means tell your followers but don’t forget to credit your source. Not only will it boost your credibility, you’ll have expanded your peer network by mentioning the author or creator of that content. On the other hand, presenting work as your own when it was created by someone else is plagiarism.

Don’t forget to have fun. Remember, social media is all about engagement and making connections. Stick to your brand and be professional but don’t be dry and boring. Be yourself and be conversational. Again, marketing and networking are all about relationships. Curate your online presence, be real, be relevant, and have fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How To Manage Your Online Reputation

By Tracey Dowdy

We’ve all heard anecdotal stories like the one about the woman who lost a promotion when her disparaging comments about her employer were seen on Twitter, or the guy who wasn’t hired because photos from Spring Break ’08 showed up in a Google search.

According to CareerBulider.com, 75 percent of employers utilize search engines like Google before hiring someone. The most common reasons for potential hires being rejected ranged from talking about drinking or drug habits to bad-mouthing previous employers.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes (of Google searching) to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

The prospect of going back years or through hundreds of pages of a Google search to clean up your online reputation can be overwhelming. Companies like Outspoken Media and Firefly Digital Marketing have built their businesses on helping individuals and companies curate their online presence not only for optimization but for reputation as well. One start-up – BrandYourself.com – will clean things up for less than $100 a year.

The good news is that unless you have more complex issues, like past legal troubles or a negative review from a reputable source, you can do a lot of the work yourself. Here’s how:

  • All roads lead to Rome and all searches start with Google. Well, all roads may not lead to Rome these days but Google is far and away the most commonly used search engine. Sign up for Google Alerts to be notified any time new content about you is published to make it easier to monitor what’s out there.
  • Be mindful of where that content ranks. An average of 85 percent of people click on links on the first page of a Google search but the number drops exponentially to 10-12 percent for page two and all the way down to 3-5 percent for page three. If what’s posted on page one – regardless of whether it’s true – is negative, it won’t matter that the positive content is on page four or five. Anything past page three is pretty much the online reputation equivalent of the Sea of Tranquility.
  • Create and control your own domain name. In other words, if you can’t remove it, bury it. Pete Kistler, co-founder of BrandYourself.com learned the importance of burying negative content when he discovered there was another Pete Kistler showing up in Goggle searches of his name. The problem? The other Pete Kistler was a convicted drug dealer. So, Kistler seized control of his name by creating positive, original content, as well as multiple websites which ultimately drove the other Pete Kistler further down in search results. You can buy domain names for as little as $12 a year from sites like GoDaddy. That’s money well spent if it’s putting you in the driver’s seat.
  • Make the most of social media. Aggregate your accounts by utilizing a social media manager like HootSuite or TweetDeck. Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) consolidate your accounts into a single dashboard instead of having to log in to individual accounts. From here you can schedule content, monitor mentions, and track keywords.
  • Be proactive and reactive. Seize and maintain control of your social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Consider separate accounts for personal and professional use. No doubt you’ve put effort into developing your professional reputation and you don’t want it damaged because of content that has been posted without your consent. It can happen as simply as being tagged in a Facebook photo by a family member or friend. By keeping separate accounts you lessen the risk of the two world’s colliding. If it does happen, and you want the content removed, act quickly to mitigate the impact. Ask that the content be taken down and if that doesn’t work contact the site manager for assistance in resolving the issue.
  • Blog Blog Blog. Fact: blogging attracts more traffic than static websites and is a great way to curate your brand and your reputation. What better way to demonstrate who you are than by creating the content yourself? Blogging forces you to be mindful of the content and that mindfulness will spill over into your other social media accounts. Seed the blog with keywords and tags to improve your search engine results and drive it to that coveted page one of Google.

Finally, remember this: The best kept secret is that nothing is secret. Don’t assume privacy settings will protect you – any wall can be breached. It’s a cliché but if in doubt, leave it out. The blowback could be as simple as hurt feelings or as complex as a libel suit.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’re looking to start a debate, I suggest bringing up the issue of social media and whether or not it belongs in the classroom. Parents, educators, students – everyone has an opinion, and it’s an interesting mix of individuals on both sides of the issue.

In our technology-saturated society, one could argue social media is already in our schools. Every day teachers battle to keep kids off their phones and focused on what’s happening in the classroom, and see social media as a distraction. On the other side of the debate, educators have embraced social media as a way to engage with students outside conventional teaching methods, recognizing that students raised on smartphones and laptops have developed very different learning styles from past generations.

Those against social media in the classroom say there’s no need to look further than the name: “social media.” In other words, its purpose is socialization and it should be kept that way. Gail Leight, teacher and contributor to pbs.org points out that many of her junior high students already live in a very “it’s all about me” world and the social media they engage in promotes a very narrow world view. For her, the goal of educators should be to open student’s minds, exposing and challenging them to see the world beyond their social media circles. In addition, students may struggle to shift between digital and real-life learning and may not be able to separate the two worlds effectively.

On the other side are educators embracing social media and making it an essential part of their curriculum and teaching methods. Recognizing this generation of students will be among the first to have lived out their entire lives online, the value of this approach is obvious. From moms posting baby photos through their own social media accounts, virtually every aspect of students’ lives will be out there.  As a result, it’s become more and more critical for students to understand the importance of curating their online presence. As these students graduate and move into the workforce, there will be a higher level of accountability for their digital footprints. Many employers already see social media accounts as an unofficial piece of a potential employee’s resume.

Don Goble teaches Broadcast Technology, Film and Multimedia at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, Missouri. He points out that: “Students communicate, research, collaborate, create and publish online with or without the help of parents or educators. These same students then hop on social media to promote, discuss and share their thoughts with the world. The digital environment is offering us some of the greatest learning opportunities that young learners have ever had.” He further compares excluding social media from the classroom to giving a 13 year old the keys to a Ferrari and telling them to have fun. Not only is it ridiculous – it’s dangerous for the teen and for those with whom they come into contact.

Educators aren’t suggesting adding Facebook or Snapchat 101 to the core curriculum. Instead, they advocate taking what’s already part of the curriculum – basic writing skills for example – and applying it to blogging on closed, education-based sites like Edublogs or Kidblog. Others may use Edmodo, marketed as Facebook for schools, Fakebook, or FakeTweet to teach students what is and isn’t appropriate to put online.

In the words of teacher Vicki Davis, “Social media is here. It’s just another resource and doesn’t have to be a distraction from learning objectives. Social media is another tool that you can use to make your classroom more engaging, relevant and culturally diverse.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.