If the news shapes our view of the world what has the last few years done for our students?
The last few years have been rather turbulent. First there was Brexit, and the binary views which sprung up around that. You were either pro the EU or against the EU, with little room for any balanced middle ground. Then next the news was filled with the pandemic, with nightly figures of deaths and infections. Again, there were binary views around government measures to reduce infection rates and to encourage vaccination. And more recently we have moved on to the war in Ukraine, and massive numbers of refugees exiting Ukraine while fighting and bombing continues.
In each case our news was filled with interviews, videos and other content regarding the issues at the time, with the news on Brexit, Covid and Ukraine drowning out the other news. Social media was equally awash with content on each topic as it arose.
And for students consuming content via social media, via Instagram, snapchat, TikTok and the like, the news was all the more enveloping of their lives. Technology, which should be keeping us more informed, which seems like a good thing, might be overwhelming us, and influencing us, which is not such a good thing.
Then we have the issue of fake news, with this being reasonably easy to evidence with Ukraine where footage and images have been shared online reportedly showing events in the war, but where the actual source is previous conflicts and in one case, even footage taken from a video game. With students consuming quick content, so short videos or images, rather than more detailed reporting, you have to wonder how often the source of the content is properly considered. I will admit myself, when accessing the likes of TikTok, that I may not be as critical of the content as I might be had I consumed it through another media which didn’t present thinks as bite-sized content, where swiping through is encouraged.
We also have the issue of social media being purposefully used to manipulate the public, which is linked to fake news mentioned above. This involves more targeted messaging and fake news designed specifically to manipulate the narrative with the Cambridge Analytica scandal coming immediately to mind. There were many discussions of this kind of manipulation of the public via social media during Brexit, and also during the US presidential election which was around the same time.
Looking at the above it suggests that, if the news does shape our view of the world, students views of the world might be that little bit bleaker than they once were. They might also be that little bit more susceptible to manipulation and influence than previously.
So, what can we do?
Two thoughts jump to mind, with these being the need to increasingly consider wellbeing and also the need to consider digital citizenship.
Wellbeing for me isnt a bolt on, it is central to our lives. Sometimes our wellbeing will be good, and sometimes, when things are hard, it will be not so good. The key therefore is the ongoing process to manage our wellbeing, our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, if I am to be a bit more exact. And this requires a greater awareness of the status of our own wellbeing and of what we can do to influence it positively. Now, I don’t think anyone ever taught or advised me of this, I think I picked it up through experience, plus a bit of reading around the subject, but I believe in this fast paced world we have responsibility to provide some support and teaching in this area for our students, which I know many schools already do; I just think we can never quite do enough in this area, so need to be constantly searching to improve and do more, with this more important than ever before.
The 2nd area which comes to mind is Digital Citizenship and is something I have long been harping on about. The world we live in is a technology driven world, so we need students to be more aware of the positives but also the drawbacks. They need to see the balance which exists in using technology, plus see the extreme positives and extreme negatives through a pragmatic lens rather than the magnifying lens of social media. Students need to understand the implications its use has on them and on the world, and how they can manage this, plus need to be alert as to how some others may use technology to their own gain.
It has been a difficult few years and there is no getting away from that. These difficult times will have impacted on our view of the world, and on our wellbeing. I think in general we are all that little bit more anxious than we were 2 or 3 years ago. The key though, is how we manage the situation and move forward. The key is resilience and agility to push through the difficulties and then drive forward to better things.