Turn the Tables on Manipulative Marketing to Teens
Annie Murphy Paul shares some intriguing research that should be incorporated into teaching social media literacy. She highlights work done with students on anti-smoking campaigns. Instead of teaching students with scare tactics, groups like "truth" and "Rage Against the Haze" turned the tables on the tobacco companies and revealed their internal documents. By showing students the ways these companies manipulated teens by making smoking seem cool, it empowered them, angered many, and led to a fall in smoking rates among teens.
When educating about social media literacy, be sure to cover the huge impact marketing has. Online ads are so much a part of teens' world, but they often don't see the distinction between the marketing and the meatier content of a website.
I've often thought that the canned programs, such as Common Sense Media, work well in the classroom for busy teachers who've had to add "digital citizenship" to the long list of things they're supposed to teach. However, they're often too similar to the rest of school, with lectures or videos, and worksheets or quizzes.
Reading Annie's article reinforces my belief that teaching digital citizenship, or social media literacy, or any other lesson involving the use of digital resources must be more student-driven. Our students live in this world, so why not let them find the teaching materials?
Have students collect examples of marketing manipulation in a shared Google document. Fashion ads that feature impossibly Photoshopped models, targeted ads on Facebook (even if none of them admit to using it) are just some examples that they can share.
While this would be a great social media literacy lesson, the critical thinking involved is truly a life skill that we need to keep demonstrating.