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Strategies for Teaching Using Social Media: Impactful Uses of Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube

Ever thought about teaching a lesson using social media the kids use on a daily basis? As educators we are provided different online learning platforms we can use with our students, to engage them in the learning process. Kids, on the other hand, regularly use social media platforms that are not connected to what we use in schools.

Let’s face it, trying to keep up with what the school gives us to use with our kids feels overwhelming, not to mention that the kids can run circles around us using social media and instructional technology. We use two different types of media…school provided and kid provided. How do we open the communication process for learning?

Pew Research Center (2018) indicated that 95% of teens have the availability of a smartphone and 45% of teens are online ‘almost constantly’. Further they reported that the top three most popular social media platforms for teenagers ages 13 through 17 are YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%), and Snapchat (69%). Facebook came it at 51% followed by Twitter at 32%. Most of you might be asking yourselves, what exactly is all of that?

It is here where we face our first challenge. We are not making connections for kids between their social media presence and what we’re using for online learning. Difficulties with online learning in schools occur because it lacks the social presence that is in the forefront of the most popular social media platforms for kids. We need to create a social presence for online learning.

The concern about social media is that kids feel online learning is impersonal and therefore disengaging (Kear, et. al., 2014). One solution is to use photos and profiles to help online learners feel in touch and connected to each other. Perhaps this makes the connection more real and engaging. Let’s think about what kids are most drawn to and where the connection has to be to make the impact.

I recently interviewed Madison, a now 20-year-old female attending college. The interview was impromptu to get her first responses that come to mind. I asked her to reflect back to high school while also providing feedback with the transition to college. To be fully transparent, I have known Madison for 8 years and my questions were also impromptu but focused around information I researched from statistics as I was particularly curious if she gave:

  1. similar or different information than the research, and/or
  2. a deeper understanding to the reasons behind the research numbers

Top 3 Social media Sites for Teens and College Students

My first question asked her what her top three social media sites were that she used. Surprise, surprise it was the same top three mentioned in the research, which were YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. I further asked her what social media

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

platforms her previous high school teachers used in class. She said teachers did not use it because other programs were available for online learning issued by the school. Kids use social media to stay in touch with friends and family…to make real connections, and not necessarily for learning.

What Madison mentioned concurred with data from Anderson & Jiang (2018) where social media helps kids interact and communicate with friends and family as well as meet new people. Madison further stated that,

what makes social media real is the ability to see the expression on someone’s face in a picture to relay information

In other words, the ability to relay facial expressions and visuals are an effective form of communication reaching beyond words and texts.

Social Media Popularity Contests

However, there is a downside. I asked Madison how much time she spends on social media and the reason. She said she averages four hours a day and it is addicting. Mainly, she is addicted to all the “likes” she tries to get. She further explains,

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

Kids are portraying themselves in the light they want peers to see them in. Social media causes problems for self- image. There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way and post for everyone to see. The likes are addicting. People make comments which puts pressure on you to be or look better for the next picture. Some people are mean and there are creepy predators out there.”

Madison talked about the celebrities that are trending on the social media in her age group. She says,

The homegrown celebrities we try to be like have used social media to gain popularity and we know they are unrealistic, but we still use them as role models to achieve and strive to be the way they look. They have a lot of followers, so they have plenty of time and money to portray how they look as easy. We try to mimic our selfies to look as good as them.

Anderson & Jiang (2018) data spoke to what Madison was mentioning. In their data, they state, “…17% of [these] respondents feel these platforms harm relationships and result in less meaningful human interactions. Similar shares think social media distorts reality and gives teens an unrealistic view of other people’s lives (15%), or that teens spend too much time on social media (14%)”

Enter the Creepers…Dangers of Trolling Predators

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Madison admits she is not fully aware of the expanse to whom could be following or trolling her, or that a predator could be using multiple media platforms to find as much information as possible. GuardChild (2019), a site that compiles social media statistics from multiple sources, states that:

      • 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social networking site
      • In 26% of online sex crimes against minors, offenders disseminated information in or pictures of the victim through the victims personal social networking site
      • 39% think their online activity is private from everyone, including parents
      • The number of sexual assault cases related to social media sites has increased by 300%

Immediate Gradification of Social Media

Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

Madison outwardly admits she is addicted to social media and checks it frequently. It is the immediate gratification that keeps her engaged. Especially the number of ‘likes’ and comments. She wished more opportunities were provided in schools to learn healthy ways to post on social media.

Side note: According to a Google search, YouTube came out in 2005, Instagram in 2010, and Snapchat in 2011. So it makes sense that teachers may not have been up-to-date on the implications of these apps. However, it has now been 7 – 14 years since they came out and we are still behind in education on embracing these apps, teaching about safety, and using them in the classroom.

I think it is time to step up to the plate!

WHY DOES THIS PRESENT A PRIME LEARNING OPPORTUNITY IN THE TERRITORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA?  Here is where we have a prime learning opportunity. Her feedback during the interview enhanced and brought light to a few real life stories that shed light on the data. Educators spend a lot of time on professional development learning how to use engaging new programs provided by districts, but why aren’t we capturing their social media engagement and transferring that to learning?

We need to speak the same language as the kids by designing personalized online learning environments and providing an appropriate online presence by meeting students where they are best able to learn.

New Educator Websites

Many companies provide great online learning platforms. For example, a new educator website called Educators Only Source, houses alphabetical lists of educator friendly websites in all subject areas and grades to choose from providing fresh data and eliminating the need to search for instructional technology resources to use in the classroom. There is also an Instructional Technology section that provides links to resources for internet safety.

As educators we need to individualize lessons and make it personal for them. Provide a lesson that is twofold and hits on safety in deeper learning by showing them how to have a personal presence. Let’s face it, kids are on Excel every day.

We Can No Longer Turn Our Heads to Using Social Media in Schools

How do we work with kids to use social media and technology more safely and appropriately and provide deeper learning? How do we make it deeper learning connection? The answer is to not divide and conquer or to try and compartmentalize. Our best effort is in joining forces on these two during a lesson.

Designing lessons for deep learning help provide meaning for people in ways that improve their state of being and for the “state of the world for all living things, with due respect for truth, sensation, happiness, imagination, individuality, diversity, and the future” (Gee & Esteban-Guitart, 2019).

People want to affiliate themselves with the cause or idea to help give them meaning and make a difference in the world. It is human nature. Deeper learning is creating an opportunity for kids to enhance their life or to help others. People use the Internet to learn and to have virtual experience as well as to discover themselves.


Combining deeper learning with Do’s and Don’ts of “Netiquette”, Internet Etiquette, provide a powerful and engaging lesson for students.


  • Be respectful with your posts
  • Write posts that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to show your teachers, friends, or parents
  • Reread posts before sending, and wait to send them if you are angry or hurt
  • Privacy is key for personal issues
  • Know that your Digital Reputation follows whether today, tomorrow, 5 years or 15 years


  • Provide a series of locations you can be found on a regular basis
  • Share too much information
  • Post personal information such as full name, address, social security, phone number, etc.)
  • Assume it is OK to post something about someone else without getting their permission

Scaffolding NETIQUETTE, Social Media, and Deeper Learning

You can merge the concepts of deeper learning along with the Do’s and Don’ts in conjunction with content to develop a lesson merging with Instagram or SnapChat.

A carpenter knows what tools to use, we need to show kids how to use the Internet safely and discern between real and fake news.

Try seeking examples If you want some resources to utilize with your kids to teach about distinguishing between real and fake news.


Don’t be afraid to have the conversation with students, give them norms, or even give them a checklist of what they found easy or hard to adhere to for social media etiquette.

Our job is to broaden the perspectives and prepare students for the future. Practitioners provide opportunity for students to experience and integrate more of a global or international mindset in preparation for jobs that might not exist yet, especially as technology advances exponentially and changes lifestyles (Fedorowicz, 2017). This is why it is pertinent to teach them deeper learning and the importance of having an appropriate online presence.

Let us know how your you have used social media in your classroom! We would like to hear from you! Don’t forget to share this blog on Facebook or Pinterest with your ideas as well!


Anderson, M. & Jiang, J. (2018). “Teens, Social Media & Technology”. https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Fedorowicz, Sharlene M., “An Examination of Educators’ Perceptions of Host Country Cultural Dynamics in International Schools Abroad” (2017). Educational Studies Dissertations. 122.

Gee, J.P. & Esteban-Guitart, M. (2019). “Designing for Deep Learning in the Context of Digital and Social Media”. Comunicar: Media Education Research Journal, v27 n58 p9-17.

Kear, K., Chetwynd, F., & Jefferis, H. (2014). “Social presence in online learning communities: the role of personal profiles”. Research in Learning Technology, 22, article no. 19710. DOI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/40771/


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