With each decade, teen culture thrives on commercial competition. Wearing the right brands, eating the right food, and listening to the right music. This part of teen identity traces its roots all the way back to Elvis Presley and the clever advertising that brought The Beatles to the states for the first time. Teens used to compete locally, perhaps with the several hundred others that inhabited their schools, but now, with the advent of social media, teens are reaching out to compete globally peers.
Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have found a way to monetize teens’ social currency in the form of likes, subscribes, followers and friends. As classroom teachers, understanding how children are using these tools to expressive themselves is important if we understand their profiles on a national and global scale.
Luckily, social profiles don’t exist with 1st graders, but the roots are perhaps taking hold as young children are growing up with Ipads. The games they are playing, the YouTube videos they are watching to sing the ABC’s and count, all have adds. Unless you install Addblocker (which you should do right now!!), your child might be overstimulated with countless adds each day. This is an easy solution to the bombardment of advertising that exists on the web, but what about the vanity?!
Generation “like” refers to perhaps the surge of 12 to 20 something year-olds who are living their desired social lives online. I say desired because of the carefully constructed and calculated extent that each teen spends on Facebook and Instagram content. Consider the group of 5 NJ high school students crowded around a laptop-filled kitchen table creating a new profile for their friend Darius. The friends analyzed each potential profile picture meticulously to determine its potential impact and expected likes. “Girls get more likes,” one said, “but the more you get the better the picture is.” The vanity and naivety is slightly obnoxious, and this is where teachers can come in.
Teachers who wish to educate students could start here. Informing teens about the true nature and purpose of social media. All of the teens in PBS’ documentary admitted to feeling empowered, and validated in their quest for social currency. However, what they don’t realize is that their likes, shares, and every click are generating revenue for massive companies.
The data is breathtaking, and when Oliver Lucket, CEO of The Audience reveals the Facebook data for one his most successful clients, my jaw dropped. Oliver has the sponsors, and potential customers right in his pocket, ready to sell to the corresponding advertisers. This is the “invisible” yet obvious purpose behind it all, to get teens more loyal to brands.
Let’s get back to the classroom…I digress.
The good news is kids and teens are becoming masters at this technology. They thrive on self promotion, and perhaps this is enough to inspire kids to make a math tutorial video for class, or film a movie for a literature class to show in front of their peers. I’ve seen kids create social media pages for authors, or civil rights leaders for social studies, or twitter accounts for global warming causes. Social media is here to stay, and as teachers who embrace technology, we must also embrace the digital world that comes with it. Our first step must be in educating children to the true nature of social media, our second step is modifying our lessons (not standards) to inspire kids to combine their digital profiles with classroom content.