While the 2021 – 2022 school year has begun, with primary forms of instruction back in the classroom, the challenges that came along with the Coronavirus pandemic are still impacting the staff, students, and guardians of the children in the community. Now, another sort of ‘challenge’ has been introduced in the form of the latest social media trend, through the platform TikTok. In early September 2021, the platform released the entire school year worth of ‘challenges’ for students to participate in, with each of the challenges being less than community friendly. While teaching academic and functional skills are crucial, the recommendations below focus on how to teach to the new ‘challenges’ that our students are seeking to participate in.
When considering where to start, look at the learner’s history and different experiences the child has had with social media, in and out of the academic setting.
- Have they been positive, or negative?
- Has the child mentioned fears, or enjoyment from the different experiences?
- What forms of social media are they actively on?
- Has the child mentioned/ participated in the challenge the month prior?
In the classroom, most students have adapted some form of technology to support their learning. Before allowing access to technology in any space, consider reviewing what is expected. Tell the learner what you want them to complete, not what they are not allowed to do. Establish clear and concise expectations that they are to follow, and state what will happen if they do not. Be prepared to revert to paper and pencil activities if the expectations are not followed.
After you establish some sort of understanding to what their current experiences and interactions are online, begin thinking about the different ways the child engages in social interactions.
- Are they primarily virtual, or in person?
- Who is someone your child admires? (If you don’t know- ask! This information will be beneficial to identify if it is a positive social media influencer, someone in their community, etc.)
- What activities outside of school do they participate in?
- How often are they around other individuals their age, in a leisure setting?
In the classroom, most students have attended most of their instruction for the last 18-20 months virtually. If the students have been in person during this period, there has been a significant amount of distance between each other, and a potential fear due to the Coronavirus to come near someone. Consider structuring activities in which the learners are focusing on interpersonal relationship skills incongruence with their academic and functional skills. Have the students practice and demonstrate the basic conversational skills, observe social cues, and role play more challenging social topics (e.g., someone is bullying them, they are upset, they need help, etc.).
While establishing, developing, and practicing social interactions is crucial to social emotional skills, it is also important to begin looking at how and/or why the learners may be participating in these inappropriate, and potentially very dangerous or TikTok challenges.
- As the month is coming to an end, there may be an increase in students attempting to complete the assigned challenge to gain social attention or clout.
- As the next month is embarking, students may begin preparing for the upcoming challenge.
- Identify places with low staff awareness/ supervision/ratio to learners, as these may be the more vulnerable times.
- If the challenge includes other peers/ staff, consider creating “do this” expectations for crowded spaces.
Most of the challenges that have been announced include some form of “proof” that the challenge was completed. This, in most cases, will be through some form of social media. If there is a potential opportunity for the challenge to be conducted, or it is believed that the challenge is currently being attempted, intervene immediately and call for additional assistance to support the peers and staff throughout the community. The more assistance available to redirect the audience, the faster the peers and staff can get back to continuing their everyday lessons and tasks.
The 2021 – 2022 school year has its challenges like every other, but these additional social media ‘challenges’ will continue to impact our educators, parents, and community members. It is important to continue telling our learners what we want them to say, do, report, and work on. Communicating with our learners in positive and clear expectations will continue to aide in teaching and modeling what is socially appropriate regarding the ‘challenges’ the latest trend is facilitating, and many other challenges that they will continue to face as they grow into independent citizens in our society.