A Candid Conversation With Teens About Social Media

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Week #6

I recently spent the weekend in LA and took advantage of an opportunity to hang with my younger brother and some of his high school cheer squad mates. I struck up a candid conversation about how they use social media and felt about using it in school, and to my dismay, the consensus was that they are constantly being told by teachers and administration that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are a waste of time.

Our teachers think Facebook is a ridiculous ‘network’ and that it’s useless.”

So I got to thinking; why on earth would teens who are getting ready to graduate from high school in June, be told by teachers that social media is “useless,” and what effect would it have on their life as some prepare for college and others prepare to enter the work force. It was apparent that these teens felt quite the opposite about the subject, but their knowledge of social media seemed limited to following their favorite “celebrities” and using it as an alternative way to get together with friends and organize parties.

Here is an excerpt from that conversation:

Billy: How have social media sites changed the way you communicate among your peers?

Cheer Squad: It makes messaging and communicating a lot faster. It’s easier to plan occasions like going out to eat, going to the movies, or a party. It’s even faster than texting.

Billy: How is it faster than texting?

CS: When you’re using Facebook chat, the message pops up right away and it’s easier than having to wait for a text message.

Billy: Besides planning parties, what else have you used social media for?

CS: To get information about celebrities and find out what’s going on in the world.

Billy: So you’ve used it to find out about current events?

CS: Sometimes. We mainly use it to follow Charles Trippy and our favorite all-star cheer teams.

Billy: Have you ever thought of networking with any of those teams?

CS: No

Billy: Do any of your teachers use social media sites to communicate with students or share lesson plans?

CS: They haven’t. I have a feeling that most of our teachers think that [social media] is a big waste of time. Our teachers think Facebook is a ridiculous “network” and that it’s useless.

Billy: That’s shocking to me.

CS: I’ve had a teacher tell us that it kills time and that kids shouldn’t be sitting in front of the computer all day, and yet they expect us to type up our papers.

Billy: What if I told you that you could take a social media class in college. Would you enroll?

CS: Heck yes! It would be fun to learn more about something we use everyday.

I went on to explain that I’m currently taking a Social Media for Journalists course and it was like magic in the way all their faces lit up. They all seemed thoroughly interested. I then asked my brother if he’d be willing to act as my social media ambassador and to help me coordinate a weekly Skype group so I could guide them past celebrity stalking and show them how social media will benefit them, both in school and professional settings. I would love to include my readers in this process as well.

If you could teach Social Media to high school students, what kind of lesson plan would you put together and why?


  1. It’s awesome how you got a teens viewpoint of social media in the class rooms! It’s sad how they say “our teachers think FB is a rediculous network and its useless”…I feel if more teachers could put social media to use in the classrooms it would be SO beneficial for the students! Great article *

  2. breannadrew says:

    Great insight on a topic I hadn’t even thought about yet.

    Its discouraging to think that teachers would ever tell students that something is a waste of time. It seems like it would be considerably more helpful to direct students to productive ways that social media can be used.

    While I tend to agree that celebrity gossip and party plans might not be the best use of teen time, its the same thing that most of us did by phone (yes the kind with the cord) years ago.

    I agree with other posters that if social media was made into an classroom tool for teens they’d both be directed to more educational experiences but also would spend less time focusing on the limited or time-wasting aspects of the internet.

  3. Stephanie Ortega says:

    Great topic for a blog Billy!
    I could see why teachers think that Social Media sites are a waste of time. The reason why they say it is that they only see it in the ways I would see it before I took this class, which was as being just useful for conversations, gossip, and a message that could easily spread by word of mouth within a few hours. What teachers haven’t noticed is the way that they could use it for educational purposes. What I mean by this is that they haven’t thought about how they could give a topic to the class and have everyone read and respond to what another classmate has written about it. This helps save paper, and it is a faster way to get to other classmates. Also, they could go on a site and find some news that was never shown on the television. It can be important to others, so they should know it and share with their classmates. I think the other reason why teachers don’t encourage Social Media sites is that the district doesn’t allow it. I think, however, that schools will soon start teaching about the good contributions Social Media sites have on the new wave of the world. They are important in the world. The issue is that teachers are still using all the old methods and are not taking advantage of technology and the cyber world. Good article to read and think about Billy.

  4. Great convo! The 1st question, was a really good one, because I graduated in 2007 and technology from then to now has done so much, I think of what my answer would have been, had you asked me that when I was in high school, and although the answer may have been somewhat the same, it would have been different in so many ways. NOTHING on the main stream market was “touch-screen” now pretty much everything is. Myspace was hot! and if your phone had a camera that was pretty cool too, it sounds so ancient and as if it were so long ago, but that’s just how much technology has changed. Great article, i enjoyed reading the Q&A’s.

  5. sharisax says:

    Billy, this is PERFECT for a Guest Post on my blog. May I use it in this form or would you want to do something different with it first?

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