Films for schools website TrueTube has just released an innovative and timely short drama called Like Me, created to help teachers discuss the pressures and dangers of social media with the SmartPhone generation.
If you were teaching in the year 2000, you will remember that every child in the country was given a cheerfully coloured Nokia for Christmas – at least, that’s what it felt like at the time.
School days have been punctuated by mobile phone confiscations ever since and the present generation of children have never known a world without the Nokia’s smart successors.
They have ceased to be “mobile phones” and are now just “phones”. And most of the time they aren’t used as phones at all – that’s just one of many apps. Instead they are used as gateways to social media, music and video.
A lot of it is innocent and fun and even educational, but there are growing concerns about the effects of social media on young people’s mental health. Many parents and teachers know they should be doing something about it, but it’s already way out of hand.
There’s no point in saying to young people, “stay off social media, it’s bad for you...” because that ship has sailed. You might as well ask them to enter a monastery or chop off a limb.
Instead, there needs to be an open conversation about the dangers so that young people can develop the skills they need to deal with online life.
Like Me is a new short drama just released by TrueTube, a charity which provides free short films for use in schools.
The film imagines that being on social media is like being on a stage with an infinite audience.
School’s over, and Sophia is straight online to share gossip with her friends. Then someone shares too much, and the audience turns nasty.
Social lessons: Isobelle Molloy plays Sophia in the free film Like Me
The film is available for free to be used in assemblies, form times and PSHE lessons where issues of self-image and personal risk can be discussed with students.
Like Me was written to take account of the prevalent issues highlighted by teachers, giving plenty of discussion starters for the classroom.
When showing a film to students, treat it in the same way you’d treat a written text you want to share with a class. So beforehand, tell the pupils what they are about to see. No spoilers – but raise expectation and give them a handle on it, so they are straight into the world and ready to take it in (e.g. “You’re about to see a film that shows what it’s like to be on social media, but looking at it in a new way...”).
Give them something to look out for while they watch (e.g. “Take a note of all the ways that FOMO is demonstrated in the film”). Then afterwards discuss what they’ve seen and what the various characters did and said.
For a start, ask the students why they think the film is set on a stage. Young people are under huge pressure to “perform”: getting the right photo, being seen to be having fun, living a life that other people are going to admire. And it never stops. You leave school at the end of the day, but the gossip, the peer pressure and the bullying follow you home.
And what about FOMO? That’s “Fear Of Missing Out” in case you’ve been wondering. Annie won’t turn off her phone because, as she says, “I don’t want to miss anything”. Selena is annoyed she didn’t hear online about a party. Young people are under continuous pressure to feel part of what is happening on social media, making it hard for them to literally and metaphorically switch off.
How does online culture affect self-image? Sophia takes a photo of herself in her new top. It’s not enough to have a new top, she has to take a photo of herself and share it online for everyone to see how great she looks in it. And then she takes the photo down again when someone makes a comment about her curves, which she takes to mean that she’s fat. Which she clearly isn’t. And the important thing for the characters about the previous night’s party was getting a photo of themselves having a great time to share on social media.
Is anything online ever private? Once a compromising photo of Sophia appears online it’s impossible for her to control how far it spreads.
And how do you know that the people you meet online are who they say they are? The film features several characters with boxes over their heads (it looks better than it sounds) to represent people using false identities.
So there’s plenty to discuss. And the film is only 11 minutes long. It’s the first drama from TrueTube since our film Refugee became the first ever online film to win a BAFTA for drama at the Children’s Awards last November.
There’s possibly something a little bit meta about watching an online film about the dangers of the online world that young people are accessing via their phones, especially if you watch it on your phone. Which is what most young people will do.
- Bob Ayres is the senior education producer at TrueTube, an award-winning website for schools that provides free videos, lesson plans and assembly scripts for RE, PSHE and citizenship at key stages 3 and 4. Visit www.truetube.co.uk
Like Me is available to watch and download for free at www.truetube.co.uk and you can watch the film on YouTube at http://bit.ly/2jUYT3