“How to use social media” For early teenagers

April 9, 2014

In April 2011, I gave this presentation in my son’s school in Singapore for the children of 13 to 15 years old.

When I look back at it, I feel now this presentation or message should be given to 10 to 13 years old children.

In this presentation I spent good amount of time in giving context and making children ready to accept the message about how to use social media. What I have seen is that teenager children don’t accept things just because some one is telling them to do it. They want to know why, they are ready to question everything. But at the same time if we take them into confidence and share our thought process they appreciate it ( may not necessarily agree with it, but at least their readiness to listen is much higher).

There are three steps in this presentation before the actual message :

1. Quiz : This is just to make the learning fun. Make them relax and enjoy

2. “There can be different views about same thing” ( basically telling them that don’t have to look at any message  as ‘one is right and other is wrong’). Hence I have given two examples – count the number of squares. You always get so many different answers. And you achieve your objective of conveying that there are different views about the same thing hence they should listen to parents / elders instead of taking ‘I am right/ you are wrong’ stand.

The second is a picture of old woman / young woman, it is to reinforce the above message.

3. In the third step I have tried to give them the context as to why they are being told or cautioned repeatedly about the use of social media. Whey parents / teachers are constantly reminding them to be careful. Most children tend to discard the message when told many times, they simple ignore you, hence I wanted to share with them concerns of parents and teachers.

For this purpose, I wanted to impress upon them that social media is a very new concept – less than 20 years old and compare that with all other means of communication which have been there for hundreds of year. There are well established norms of the society over these years. But with social media no one knows what are the norms, what is correct or what is acceptable. So obviously everyone in the society is anxious, at times apprehensive about this new form of the social life. So I wanted them to understand this perspective – when parents / teachers are telling you something there is a reason behind it, they are not there to stop you from doing something just for the sake of it.

By this time, I did find that children were ready to listen what I had to say.

At this stage, I did not take “Dos and Don’t” approach.

I wanted to share with them the impact of social media on our lives and how it is shaping our personal, professional and social life. I believe if we tell them more about the possible results, teenage children are able to take appropriate action to large extent.

My key message was to use 3T approach to decide if you are doing right thing or not. You would read about 3T in the slides.

Then I wrapped up the presentation with some good examples of social media where it is useful. Most often children are told about bad things that are happening because of the social media, I wanted to make sure that children understand that it can be used for betterment as well.

Hope you would like it. Would be happy to get your feedback.

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What I want my children to learn

April 12, 2011

“The knowledge and information that our children are getting through formal education system, is it good enough for them to face the rapid advancements in science and technology?”

“Are our kids getting ready to face the rapid changes in social structure?”

“Are our children developing the solid foundation to be successful in globalised world?

As parents of two under-teen children, my wife and I often go over these questions. Our discussions move around the education system, type of schools, curriculum etc. The fact that we often go through these discussions shows that we have yet to get satisfactory answer.

We realised that we are trying to find the answer in wrong place. School or curriculum system’s mandate does not include getting children ready for the new world. We have nothing against the education system – it is doing its job. We have nothing against the schools – they are teaching the curriculum that is prescribed by the board of education.

However we all agree that it is not good enough. Challenges are of different kind.

When I look at their curriculum and books and compare with the advancements in every field, the gap is yawning. In the coming years what our children are learning in schools would be outdated by the time they go to college. Our children are going to find so much of gap in what they know and what they are expected to know when they go out in the real life that it is going to baffle them. Till 10/15 years back the transition from education system to real life was quite smooth.

The challenges are not going to be only in education, they are going to be in social life as well. The contours of social circle have already changed. When we grew up we and our parents had an idea of the social structure we would be entering in and we were groomed accordingly. With the virtual societies and online social networking we do not know how the societies are going to be shaped by the internet world.

Also in the professional field our children would be working in a globalised environment. They would need different skills to excel in such environments.

To help our children prepare to handle such situations, we need to help them acquire skills. Following is my list :

Ability to learn “how to learn” :
Today’s learning process has a structure which is made up of class room learning and books. And there is an assessment process at the end of it. Most often the learning is guided by the assessment process. As the information and knowledge are changing so rapidly, kids would have to look at many sources of information beyond books and class room. There might not be formal assessment process in place.

Usually our mind processes new information based on what it has learnt, it tries to find the context with the available information. In the coming days, the new information that children would be coming across would be far away from the context of what they have learnt, very often the information would be contradicting what the mind already knows. This information would not be fitting in the mind’s frame of reference.

In such cases I would like my children to develop ability to understand new sources, process such information and learn from it. I would like my children to go through the skills development system that would help them face entirely new scenarios and face them confidently.

Collaborate :
While the education and school systems teaches student to be competitive and zero sum game, its not going to be the only trait that would see them through in the coming age. I would like children to learn how to collaborate and become stronger . The personal growth and learning are going to happen more through collaboration and understanding of communities than being just a competitive person.

Work in virtual teams :
Our children learn how to deal with their friends and people around them on a daily basis. But in the new world we increasingly find ourselves working with the people whom we don’t meet in person. We deal with problems by working with the team members through electronic and digital communications. Very often our decisions are based on our knowledge of our friend or colleague’s background. That is not going to be the case in virtual world where children would have to deal with people and their culture about which they have no idea. I would like my children to learn the skills of dealing with virtual teams.

Leadership through influence :
Today children are learning leadership skills that are oriented towards ‘command and control’ approach. In the new world it is the influence that would matter to become a leader. Also in the coming times, while working in different communities the role of a person would keep changing. The real leadership would come through influence and not through titles. I would like my children to understand the importance of being team player, influencer and a leader.

The conventional education system can not instill these skills due to paucity of time and often due to lack of quantification criterion. But we all know that these skills are important and in coming times these would be the skills for basic survival. I strongly believe that we as parents would have to come forward and create communities to help our children learn these skills along with their regular education system. If you know any such community which is trying to do so, please share here.


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