New Jersey Adds Social Media to the Core Curriculum: Snapchat for Everyone?

social media at schoolIf you are or have ever been a student in the last decade or so, you have at some point heard what I like to call the “The Internet Is Forever” Speech. There are multiple variations on this theme including the “Facebook Will Destroy Your Career Before It Starts” Speech and the “Social Media Will Ruin Your Life” Speech. I like to give this speech to my students at the beginning of the year, and each and every single time I now hear them talking about Snapchat. Despite the fact that I’ve given the speech often enough that my students can recite it by rote, it’s never technically been a mandatory component of my curriculum. Until now.

Or rather, until now if I lived in New Jersey. Finally: it’s in the Core Curriculum!

This week, the New Jersey General Assembly passed legislation that includes social media training as part of the middle school core curriculum. Authored by Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester), Bill A3292 passed with strong support from both sides of the aisle. The bill mandates that social media be included as content in the core curriculum for all middle school students grades 6 – 8.

The new social media curriculum could go into effect as early as the 2013 – 2014 school year as part of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Technology. Alexis Degan at PolitickerNJ states that the “Commissioner of Education will provide schools with sample learning activities and resources to help promote using social media responsibly.”

But Wait! It’s Not the “Facebook Will Ruin Your Life” Speech?

What’s interesting about New Jersey’s Social Media Act is that it isn’t the same old speech. In fact, it seems that New Jersey is looking for ways to educate its middle schoolers on all the positive and productive things that social media can do for them. Sure, Assemblyman Fuentes did say that “there are … opportunities for our young people to fall prey to the pitfalls of the many social media platforms at their fingertips.” But overall his bill seems to place a much greater emphasis on teaching kids how to use social media instead of just focusing on what will happen if they mess it up.

“In an increasingly digital world, there are a growing number of opportunities for us to broaden our horizons,” Assemblyman Fuentes said. His colleague, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) elaborated, “It’s important that we teach kids at an early age to use these tools responsibly so they don’t make any foolish mistakes”.

Snapchat for Everyone? Not quite.

I’m curious to see just how the state of New Jersey intends to go about teaching its middle schoolers how to responsibly use social media. So many well-intentioned adult lessons about the dangers of the world tend to fall on deaf ears. I hope that this social media curriculum will be handled in an engaging way that honors the students’ need for more independence while providing them with an appropriate safety net.

Time will tell how this is going to go, but it seems certain that other states will follow suit.

What’s your opinion on social media lessons in school? Have you given the Facebook speech to your kids?

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A teacher by trade, Elizabeth LaBelle graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 2011. After specializing in Political Science and Francophone Studies with a minor in Korean, the only tangible skill she can show for it is the ability to write in all three languages. Elizabeth never thought she would get paid to write in any language – but after four years washing dishes in an industrial kitchen and a year selling office supplies door-to-door, nothing surprises her. When she’s not writing or teaching, Elizabeth coaches high school debate and forensics. Her hobbies include thoroughbred racing, competitive pool playing and hunting for the perfect Chicago apartment.

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