Inside and Outside of School

The Impact of Social Media Today

Simon Gerts LarsenCopenhagen (DK), November 2017 - Simon Gerts Larsen is a teacher in Københavns åbne Gymnasium. He will bring his experience into Session ENG 02, 07 December from 12.15 to 13.00, entitled "Inside and Outside of School: The Impact of Social Media Today". The continually evolving and changing world of social media is an intimate part of the lives of most young learners. Should social media education fall on the shoulders of educators?

How have Danish high school students been using social media in the recent past?

Simon Gerts Larsen: Social media have taken more and more of the students’ time and concentration. It’s a daily battle to make them put their devices away. I have to devote a lot of class time to trying to establish a dialogue. I would say they are in a dependent relationship with their mobile phones. The worst thing is that they have to make decisions on whether to reply to the message or notification. This takes some of their decision-making power. This, in turn, influences their learning ability. Ten years ago, we did not have these kinds of problems. 

How have teachers and schools reacted to this? 

Simon Gerts Larsen: The teachers in our school are pretty frustrated. Some have experimented with collecting students’ phones before every class. This works in some classes, but in others it doesn’t. Such a decision has to go through our student council. We will try to make them discuss this topic again very soon. 

Some teachers have taken another approach: They try to use the devices as an active asset in class. This, too, is not a perfect solution. My own private opinion is that phones should be collected before every class, placed in a locker, and released after class. 

Can personal experience and life at school be separated when it comes to social media?

Simon Gerts Larsen: No it cannot. Everything is one big pool of messages and notifications: parties, work, homework, etc. Our students generally feel a lot of stress. Social media are a key factor in this context. I am sure a great number of things influence the stress level, but I’m sure social media are a big factor. 


Do you think this type of separation is desirable?

Simon Gerts Larsen: As you may have guessed, I am a big fan of separating things - not for me, but for the students’ well-being. Some can handle it, but most of the students can’t. I think it is our duty as professional teachers to help them.

This leads me to the main focus in our session: online bullying and shaming, which is becoming a pretty big issue. It is a realm in which one student can control another’s life on social media. The problem is that they cannot predict, or control, what happens to pictures and movies they upload to shame somebody. This is our main issue, and we have had a few unpleasant incidents in our school.