RCA Language Arts Teacher Beth Miller developed the lesson plan with an interest in covering three major areas: How does social media affect mental health and society, and how is it used by advertisers?
What she learned in posing some tough questions to her students regarding social media content and usage was startling.
“They didn't really care about how social media changed their brains or affected their mental health,” Miller said, adding that they see social media as just one more part of their everyday existence. Students really dug into the effects of social media content through a project that challenged them to create a company, invent a product, and then market it via social media.
Miller wanted them to learn about the different audiences they could expect to find on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and others. Then, they needed to explain how they planned to use social media to promote the fictional product.
“I asked them about their target audience, because if you're selling to middle-aged moms, TikTok’s probably not your jam, you're going to need to go to Facebook. Then they had to explain to me how they would place products with influencers. We also discussed how companies learn what buyers want.”
RCA Language Arts Teacher Beth Miller developed the lesson plan for her social media class.Students then learned about ways advertisers gather information about them, which was an eye-opener.
“They were like ‘wait, every time I Google something, Google just sells that to people and that's how all these ads show up?’ They were surprised about it. We looked at the terms of service for TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and I said, ‘alright, let's go through these with a highlighter. Every time you think this company is getting access to something you didn't know about, mark it.’ That was the part they cared about. Not the mental and emotional effects but their privacy.”
It wasn’t Miller’s goal for students to delete their social media accounts. What she wanted them to do was think. Think about what they’re swiping through and why. It's that kind of engagement that has helped Rolesville outperform surrounding schools.
She also learned things about her students that were beneficial to her teaching style.
“If I can just get my students to have that second thought about something they see, hear, or read, we’re making progress. They so easily want to stop at their first thought, believe that’s the way things are, and move forward. But if I can just get them to that second thought, then I have succeeded.”
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Rolesville Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Rolesville, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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