Social media has emerged as one of the main communication tools among children and youth today. In fact, 85% of parents with teenage children ages 13-17 report that their child uses social media. Even children as young as 10 years old have at least one social media profile.

Social media has emerged as one of the main communication tools among children and youth today. In fact, 85% of parents with teenage children ages 13-17 report that their child uses social media. Even children as young as 10 years old have at least one social media profile.

These social networks like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube have become a part of students’ daily lives. And as a result, educators have began to use social media as a learning tool in their classrooms and afterschool programs.

Social media provides a highly creative and collaborative environment that offers a range of learning opportunities for students. But while it can be an effective learning tool, there are a few guidelines to follow when incorporating social media into your classroom or program.

To help you get started, check out the following do’s and don’ts of using social media to enhance learning:

1. DO become familiar with the popular social media platforms. There’s a good chance that your students already know the ins and outs of social media networks like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. In order to effectively use social media as a learning tool, you must also understand each platform’s features, settings and uses. This will help you explore creative ways to integrate social media into the learning experience.

2. DON’T focus on the “likes.” Social media encourages creativity, and focusing on how many likes or shares a post receives can stifle students’ creativity. Instead, outline clear goals and expectations for students’ social media use and set your own standard of measurement before each activity.

3. DO use privacy controls. It’s essential to ensure students are safe while using social media in the learning environment. Every social network has its own privacy settings, but most features allow you to protect your personal information, control who can see your posts, hide your location and more.

4. DON’T allow students to create a personal account without parents’ permission. Be sure to inform parents about the use of social media in your classroom or program. Based on their feedback, decide if it’s best for students to access social media through their personal accounts or through one shared account.

5. DO find creative ways to promote deeper engagement. Social media is constantly evolving, and each platform has its own unique tools and features. Tap into these tools to foster positive student engagement. Have students create a YouTube video on how to conduct a science experiment. Tune into a livestream to virtually attend an event. Start a class or program blog and allow students to contribute educational content. The possibilities are endless!

6. DON’T forget to address digital citizenship. This 21st century skill helps students learn, communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly online. It includes teaching media literacy, preventing cyberbullying, protecting private information and reinforcing appropriate online behavior. Teaching digital citizenship can ensure students stay safe and on-task when using social media to learn.

7. DO foster collaboration beyond the learning environment. Learning doesn’t have to end when students leave your classroom or program. Encourage students to communicate, share and collaborate in a safe, designated space outside the learning environment. You can create a private Facebook group, introduce apps like Slack or GroupMe or establish a unique hashtag to tag and share posts on Twitter and Instagram.

8. DON’T limit yourself to the most popular social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Explore the various social media sites and apps available, and choose the ones that best fit your students’ needs.

9. DO encourage active learning. Encourage students to be actively involved on social media rather than simply scrolling and passively absorbing information. Social media actively engages students by allowing them to search for answers, make informed decisions and create original content.

10. DON’T stick to the rules. Outside of the learning environment, students typically use social media to connect with their friends or as a source of entertainment. Help them change their perspective on social media by using the tools in non-traditional ways to enhance learning. For example, create a unique hashtag to encourage open dialogue on Twitter. Use Facebook to run a survey and collect primary data. Or host a live student presentation via Instagram.

When used properly, social media is a powerful learning tool that keeps students engaged and excited to learn. For ideas on using social media in your classroom or program, check out 5 Ultimate Tricks Of Using Social Media As Learning Tools.