Watch out for the virtual content

Last Updated 13 February 2019, 18:45 IST

Being in a global-village, space and time are no barriers to the free flow of information and ideas. Online networks and social media are a fascination for young minds. As per a recent survey, 72% of high school and 78% of college students spend time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Giving students free access to social media for a long time can be perilous. Hence, teachers and parents need to intervene. Students are largely influenced by what is posted on social media without analysing the integrity of the information.

Many befriend strangers online, ignorant of the repercussions. Most often students are the victim-imitators of corrupt information. Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist, states in his
A Theory of Human Motivation that the social need of human beings is the third most significant necessity after physical and safety needs. Thus, students have a tendency to be popular and sometimes be addictive to social media. Schools and teachers have a major part in helping students develop their critical consciousness to protect their innocuous mind from being corrupted.

Use with care

Critical consciousness is an ability to recognise and analyse different situations and events, and the commitment to take actions accordingly. The concept of critical consciousness originates in the writings and popular education of Paulo Freire. Freire believed that a critical understanding of poverty, oppression, exploitation etc., was a precondition for poor people to initiate a positive change. Even though Freire focused on social oppression and systems that negatively affect one’s quality of life, it can be applied to the oppression and exploitation of minds through social media. Students have a tendency to post all their activity photos to their friends and relatives. They receive a lot of attention in doing this and often are blind to the dangers it can bring them.

Social media gives students a wider audience and many feel empowered, but they do not have the maturity to protect themselves from the many emotional regulations. Most students evaluate their life values by the likes they receive from Snap chat, Facebook or Instagram accounts. Students have become subject to comments posted on Facebook and are unable to recover from the emotional damage it causes them.

Their identity is formed based on the likes and not on the understanding of who they really are. To create inflated self-esteem or to be popular, many students take on social media, oblivious to the dangers they are treading on.

Development of critical consciousness among students can help them realise the unseen dangers of social media and understand that ‘all that glitters is not gold.’ Research studies have found that students with a greater level of critical consciousness had a better understanding of realities. Critical consciousness can help students to be aware of the consequences before they involve in such activities and would enable them to evaluate the pros and cons of such behaviours.

Building resilience

Becoming more aware of the dangers of social media can help students dictate the hackers of one’s mind. Development of critical consciousness is a complex process that involves a change in one’s perspective and an in-depth knowledge of social media and its impact. The higher level of critical consciousness can lead to a better judgment about the realities of social media.

Creating awareness: Building critical consciousness among parents and teachers is an important pathway for the development of critical consciousness among students. The advantages and disadvantages of social media in a student’s life should be understood correctly.

One way of acquiring greater knowledge of the detriments of social media is to enumerate the consequences it brings such as nomophobia, cybersickness, Facebook depression, Internet addiction disorder, online Internet gaming and cyberchondria. Students are most vulnerable to these outcomes than other population.

Open classroom climate: Encouraging students to discuss online habits in the classroom setting fosters the development of critical consciousness. Discussions on current issues, such as social media platforms and online gaming, will be useful. Students should have open discussions and create a healthy classroom atmosphere by raising pertinent questions regarding social media.

Cyberbullying and the continuous psychological and emotional consequences it brings should be critically evaluated. Critical consciousness can help students learn to analyse and challenge the existing world of social media and its pressure on them. Research studies have found that critical consciousness not only fosters analytic capacity but also increases academic achievement.

Recognition: Educators should teach skills of recognition between right and wrong. Students who are involved in social media that blind them with fantasy cannot sometimes recognise the difference between what is constructive and destructive. Schools and policymakers need to recognise the need for developing critical consciousness and assist students to unfold the potentials of questioning to improve their quality of life.

Action tendency: When students understand the many threatening aspects of realities, they are more likely to engage in resisting actions than just being at the receiving end. Students should develop resistance for their healthy survival. Everything that they hear is not a melodious song. They should be able to differentiate the music of the blue whale game to a brain development video game.

We cannot ignore the profound social change and the academic benefits of nurturing students’ critical consciousness. Schools can focus on developing critical consciousness as many schools today use social media for education. By developing critical consciousness at the school level, students can discover the dangers and consequences of social media. School and teachers should provide them with space to talk about social media in the classroom settings, thus, students are enabled to take appropriate action.

(Published 13 February 2019, 18:30 IST)

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