This web site supports Dr. Russell Sabella's work on educating children, parents, educators and other stake holders about the responsible use of technology. Included in these pages you will find helpful resources, lesson plans, links, and more.
The other day, driving my third grader home from school, I was
surprised to overhear him humming a song from a popular TikTok video I'd
seen. It was a specific song with a very specific four-letter word in
it. To be clear, my son does not have a TikTok account. Did he overhear
it somewhere? Or maybe a friend's older sibling showed it to him. Did he
somehow see it cross-posted on YouTube? I asked him, of course, but you
know how that goes. 🤷
I get it, that's just how these things work. Like the "Jingle
Bells, Batman Smells" song or any other joke or urban myth—despite our
best efforts, they seem to get passed around the playground, handed down
from older kid to younger kid, on and on, in perpetuity.
But it also shows how TikTok is pretty much everywhere these days.
Like it or not, TikTok's meme-like videos, songs, and dances aren't
just part of youth culture, they basically are youth culture—for both
older and younger kids. Sure, there's some decent and entertaining stuff
there, but there's also lots of very problematic content. Not to
mention an algorithm fine-tuned to keep users entranced and hungry for
Kids, even young ones, are curious about social media. This is
why it's important for teachers—at all grade levels—to address it.
Whether it's TikTok today, or some other platform five years from now,
you'll give your students a firm footing to stand on when they encounter
life's digital dilemmas (and they will encounter them).
Below, you'll find a handful of lessons you can use to spark
kids' critical thinking about life in a social media world. And for kids
or tweens on the cusp of social media age, be sure to also check out Social Media Test Drive, a social media simulator for tweens, aimed at helping them deal with digital dilemmas.
Who Is in Your Online Community?
(Grades K–2) TikTok is a global social network with videos from all
over the world going viral. Help kids think critically about the ways
that social media connects us with others, both near and far.
My Media Choices
(Grades 3–5) Social media algorithms are engineered to keep us glued to
our screens. Help kids make informed choices about the media they're
consuming and creating.
My Social Media Life
(Grades 6–8) Lots of middle schoolers use TikTok to connect with
friends, share videos, and keep up with the latest trends. But it also
comes with big-time distractions, social pressures, and more. Use this
lesson to help your students navigate it all.
Filter Bubble Trouble
(Grades 9–12) TikTok's algorithm is fine-tuned (maybe more than any
other platform to date) to feed us more of what we (supposedly) want.
Get your high schoolers thinking critically about how social media
shapes our view of the world, and ourselves.
As for my third grader, over dinner that night I playfully asked
him if he had any other songs or memes to share. Then things got really
weird. His little brother (4 years old) stared me dead in the eyes and
said, "You're sus, Dada."