MySociaLife

Teachers

World Teachers’ Day: Our new program is here to “teach the teachers” about technology, social media and digital potential

The rise of e-learning means educators need to upskill on digital risks while inspiring students to reach their ‘digital potential’

Today is World Teachers’ Day, and our new program to ‘teach the teachers‘ around the latest challenges and opportunities of a life spent increasingly online, has just launched. 

The 75-minute online course uses a web-based ‘log in and learn’ approach to reveal what’s happening regarding social media, apps, trends, cybersecurity, scams, mental health and essential privacy settings. From this foundation, they can approach their students with a greater understanding and deeper interest to find what excites them in the digital space.

Dean McCoubrey, our founder, explains, “We know the majority of teens and pre-teens are online more, so how are we guiding them to look behind the right doors with that screen time? While social media, apps and games are entertaining, there are also amazing websites, apps and resources to help educate, inspire, and, even make money from. It’s evident that there is a skills gap in our country already. We have to start earlier to mentor students in finding multiple interests in this rapidly evolving world of technology. Some of these students will only enter higher education in the middle of this decade and then graduate into the workplace in 2030. Jobs will be fiercely contested and relevant skills will be central. It’s a little like retirement, the earlier you start and the better the guidance, the returns will be greater.”

“By teaching the teachers, we can help them guide their students to other ways of using smart devices that may open doors for them, ones which can lead to a love of photography or programming or analytics. If you take the amount of time spent online by GenZ and borrow just 10% of it per day and direct it towards a passion or hobby, you can generate fresh momentum. It can also help with mental health too, given the deeper purpose that students find,” McCoubrey adds.

Tough times

However, most teachers do not feel equipped to deal with the diverse aspects of a digital social life, and it can feel like it’s a vast online landscape to understand, while others admit to being overwhelmed during an uncertain and difficult 18 months. They need training that is concise and relatable, given the pressures.

Accessibility 

The program seeks to first explain the different dimensions of life online for students between Grades 4 to 6 and also Grades 7 to 11 – latest trends, social apps, gaming, cyberbullying, fake news, privacy and security issues. Increased screen time can also mean increased risk so you have to know what’s in front of you as a teacher first, so you can navigate the space with these age groups.

Our founder says, “Having taught this exact module myself in schools for several years and now moving teach it online, I am so delighted to make this accessible, not just to teachers in South Africa, but to other African countries. We have received interest from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya for our program. The simplicity of our learning management system (LMS) means that educators can first download a lesson plan, plus a teacher pack of tips and tools before they watch the six instructional videos. It’s all about simplicity and accessibility.”

The vantage point of listening 

Our programs approach the education of digital risk and digital potential using a four-prong approach of teaching students, their teachers, their parents and psychologists, the first on the continent to do so, giving them a unique vantage point of listening to all groups and helping to bridge the technological divide. The approach has seen us shortlisted this month as ‘StartUp Company of the Year’ at the GESS Awards in Dubai, with winners to be announced on November 15th. 

Ironically e-learning, with all its benefits, has also increased the need for foundational digital citizenship skills. We have seen a real increase in attention from schools this year. They have come to the realisation that e-learning, social media, gaming and smart devices are not going away. They are also more nervous about the reputational damage that can hit their schools if they don’t take a more active role. The only solution is to bring together the adults and the students in a more united approach to the challenges and the opportunities of this evolving space. 

From there, we can point students in the direction of their passions, so they can develop skills beyond their peers. You cannot see that path unless someone lights up the way.

Online Safety Index highlights SA kids’ vulnerability

Child Online Safety Index 2020

South Africa’s children are the second most likely in the world to be exposed to risky content, including violent or sexual content, second only to Thailand.

This is according to the DQ Institute’s 2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI) which helps nations better understand their children’s online safety status 

The COSI also notes that South African children are among those greatest at risk of cyberbullying, for establishing risky contacts online, and for putting their reputations at risk online. This is despite low levels of mobile device ownership, likely exacerbated by low levels of parental guidance and online safety education, and relatively low access to the internet, compared to the other 30 developed and developing countries reviewed in the research.

One of the platforms most popular among children and teens is TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app that lets users create and share short videos with soundtracks on any topic of their choice, that loops when it’s finished. It has approximately one billion active users worldwide, with one-third of its users being between the ages of 10 and 19, with The Verge recently highlighting that children spend an average of 80 minutes per day on the platform.

“Children love how there’s so much happening in TikTok videos – there’s sound, and action, and insights into other people’s lives – particularly appealing during the pandemic, when social interaction has been limited,” says Dean McCoubrey, founder of MySociaLife, a South African in-school Digital Life Skills Program teaching digital life skills program for schools.

“The speed of the TikTok feed appeals to kids’ love of intensity – loud music, bright lights, something new every couple of seconds – but this level of information density may lead to addiction, bullying, and impaired mental health, while the platform’s lack of restrictions on how can join and post content meaning that strangers can easily engage with children, without their parents’ knowledge, and embark on malicious relationships with them,” he adds.

This is why it’s vital that parents, teachers and counsellors find out what content the children in their care are consuming, and that they navigate each platform’s privacy and security features to ‘lock up the doors and windows of their children’s digital houses’.

“Keeping kids off online platforms is simply no longer a possibility, so the best we can do is to teach our children about choice and responsibility – two of the key themes in MySociaLife’s online, blended, and face to face programmes offered to South African schools,” he says.

McCoubrey highlights that TikTok recently launched a Family Safety Toolkit, developed in partnership with the DQ Institute, which incorporates the DQ Framework, the world’s first global standard related to digital literacy, skills, and readiness.  

The toolkit offers parents a list of digital tips they can refer to when setting guidelines for their children’s TikTok use, and includes suggestions like checking the child’s tech readiness, agreeing on family tech boundaries, setting smart limits on screen time, and having regular open and honest conversations about cyber-bullying. 

Discussions about privacy, risky content and contacts, sexting, disinformation, and the importance of support networks will also help children navigate their way safely around TikTok, and other social media platforms.

“Teens and pre-teens have so much more to deal with than their parents could ever have imagined, which is why it’s important to equip them with the tools they need to navigate their way around the online world,” explains McCoubrey.

“Teaching them critical thinking, understanding the impacts of cyberbullying, and empathy, along with how to adopt a healthy digital identity are all essential steps for them learning how to embrace technology and use it safely, how to explore it without fear, and even to use it as a means for good.”

Equipping teens and tweens with awareness of online issues – on TikTok and on any other digital platform – helps them respond more positively and make better choices, whether or not their parents are watching.

Videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6Cw10yr9OY

Notes to Editor: About MySociaLife Delivering an 8-module ‘Digital Citizenship Curriculum’, via webinar or Learning Management System, to Grade 4 to 11 learners in South African Schools, MySociaLife is the leading Digital Life Skills Program in the country. The Program has unmatched efficacy (data) with regards to student impact and behavioural change from the extensive modules which include: critical thinking, cyberbullying and empathy, sexuality online, a digital values system, privacy and security, mental health and resilience, and screen time addiction. End goal? Safer, smarter kids online – who will be able to explore and excel way beyond their peers as we slipstream into the highly competitive and demanding Fourth Industrial Revolution. Click here, www.mysocialife.com

Additional training kits for parents (links)

How DSG, Grahamstown, Gained Valuable Digital Life Skills

Do you have a problem with social media and smart devices in your school (e.g. bullying or sexting, or shaming, or privacy violation)? It seems that, these days, schools can’t ignore the hard truth that learners are overwhelmed with smart devices, social media and apps.

DSG girls have completed their digital      citizenship training with MySociaLife.

Parents and educators have a responsibility to keep informed about the potential risks and pitfalls. Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) in Grahamstown understood the need for digital skills training and brought in the MySociaLife program to help.

MySociaLife exploded onto the school scene in 2018, examining the physiological, emotional, mental and neurological influences of working on smart devices and in social media. Working as certified adopters of the world’s leading international digital citizenship framework, they have since signed a vast number of SA’s top independent schools, who highly rate their results.

The media now come to them as the #1 digital life skills trainers in the country and they are literally shaping the conversation with over 100 interviews and articles in the last quarter of last year. 8 modules of digital life skills training is offered to students (Grade 4 -11).

They also, separately, train teachers, parents and school counsellors too to ensure everyone is watchful and in the loop; giving them tools and tips to develop conscious and healthy media consumption, becoming more digitally aware and resilient. Their message is positive and constructive, and not fear-mongering.

We spoke to DSG to hear how their life skills program has impacted their school.

Q1) What made you, as a school, decide that DSG required digital life skills training?

A: All humans are facing a rapid evolution of the digital landscape and it is difficult to keep abreast of the developments, and more importantly the risks. DSG feels that it is our responsibility to fully educate our pupils about this evolving landscape, but acknowledge that we are ill-equipped to do so and therefore sort the advice of experts.

Q2) What challenges did the school have in terms of students being online?

A: We haven’t faced any major issues but common to many other schools, we have faced the following:

  • Loss of sleep
  • Addiction
  • Abuse of social media
  • Online bullying
  • Use of social media for untoward behaviour and rule-breaking

Q3) From the feedback you received from the students, do you feel that the digital life skills program of 8 modules was thorough enough and why?

A: It was very thorough and comprehensive.

Q4) What impressed you most about the MySociaLife program?

A: The appeal of the MSL programme is multidimensional:

  • It is long term, covering varying topics related to the digital landscape (as opposed to the lecture and dash approach of the short course programmes which generally show lower uptake values)
  • There is an aspect of educating everyone about their own digital footprint and responsibility within the digital space
  • The programme seeks to educate ‘responsible use’ acknowledging that we cannot limit use entirely

Q5) Do you feel that the girls’ online behaviour was influenced in a positive way, following each module of training?

A: Although difficult to measure, there is a sense that the girls have a better understanding of the way they engage with social media.

Q6) Would you recommend MySociaLife to other schools?

A: Yes.

Q7) How did you find the presenter, Dean McCoubrey with the students?

A: The pupils and staff find Dean relatable and informed.

Q8)Do you feel that the modules are covering all relevant subjects (ie cyberbullying, critical thinking, privacy, digital identity & resilience, sexuality online, screen time/obsessive use, etc) to ensure that students are more digitally aware at the end of the program?

A: Yes and we like the continued evolution of the programme.

The MySociaLife digital skills training is a step in the right direction for schools. Evidently, Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown has gained valuable tools to help learners, parents and educators to deal with the physiological, mental and emotional pitfalls of smart devices, social media and apps. So much so, David Wright invited them to teach at his new school Kingswood, where he is now Principal.

And by the same token, Shelly Frayne, invited MySociaLife to St Cyprians this year too. That’s two direct endorsements from the same school directly upon finishing their one year program. Perhaps its the fact that they will meet you and audit what you might need in your school at no cost, or if you don’t believe in the Program after the first module, you can have your money back and don’t have to continue. That’s confidence!