It’s Time to Regulate Social Media in Schools

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions.

All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?

One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.

These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.

Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.

I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.

Social Media for Education Explained

The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.

The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.

For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).

Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.

Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.

It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation

It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.

In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.

Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.

Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.

Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?

Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media

Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.

Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.

If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.

I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.


There is More to Learning than TEDTALKS







I like TED TALKS. I even have the channel loaded on my Roku Box. However, lately I have noticed people think TED TALKS is not just a source for inspirational summaries, but is in fact all they need to watch in order to understand a topic.

TED TALKS are only a beginning step. They are a good medium for getting people interested in a topic. Used for entertainment purposes, TED TALKS can be watched back-to-back, and discussed among friends. Used in a classroom setting, they need to be planned, connected to other material, and be seen as the first 10 minutes of day-one of a project. TED TALKS should not be the project, nor should they be considered a legitimate source.

Any speaker who is doing a TED TALK, will have some original source for their information. Students should be encouraged to find the origin, and in fact, make certain the TED TALK is authentic. After all they are called TED TALKS not TED TRUTHS.

Last year I read a book called Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. This is a Pulitzer Prize winning book by Fredrik Logevall. The book is over 800 pages. To be honest, I had to read some parts of it multiple times. I read this book while I was traveling through Vietnam. The entire experience is something I will never forget, and my understanding of the Vietnam War shifted. The medium is not just the message, it is the roadmap and sometimes the vehicle. 

Educators looking at TED as a resource should be asking, where does this medium go, and how can it be used to form an experience that students will never forget? The experience the TED speaker has had, is not the same as the one the students should be striving to find.

Tony DePrato

Preview the book mentioned in the article:

Check out the now, past and future

I saw this video on Gizmodo and thought Wow! That’s pretty awesome. So I thought I’d drop it here on my blog. The video is made by Kurzegesagt. They make short videos that explain some complex stuff like the history of time. It won’t replace your history teacher but it sure does lead to some pretty awesome discussions. Check out the video below.

Patrick Cauley

That’s a lot of Legos

You can build almost anything with Legos: printers, ATMs and other difficult to explain but really cool stuff. So the good people at Movoto got their thinking caps on and tried to figure out what you could build with all the Legos in the world. Check out their infograph below and be amazed. If you had that many Legos what would you build? Add your thoughts in the comments.

What All the World's LEGO Could Build



Well . . . not by American standards, but according to a website Global Rich List I am very rich. It asks you to input your annual income and then they show you how rich you are compared to the rest of the world. I live and work in Dubai, a place where opulence is seen daily, I mean they just bought a Lamborghini and made it a police car. Who does that?


The site is run by a group in the UK known as Poke. They explain how they calculate it and said that the average annual (that’s every year people) salary is $5000 US dollars. That’s less than $100 per week. A great exercise would be What would you spend your $100/week on? Beside raising awareness they are also asking for donations that go to JustGiving. Check out the site and leave your comments below about how you could use it in your class.

Get your physics on!

What would happen if an immovable object would meet an unstoppable force? Well a popular YouTube channel called minutephysics helps us to answer that question. While some of their videos can be a little over my head, this one is explained perfectly for us people who are interested in physics but don’t have the chops for it. At any rate, it is very interesting and I think the result may be somewhat surprising.

A video for science class – chicken or egg

Questions like this have been causing people to scratch their cranium and dig deep into their analytical minds for ages. I remember my fourth grade teacher posed this question that led to a debate for the next 3 days and caused school yard riots, a halt to academic work and no answers . Finally, I can sleep. Finally, I can step outside and rejoin society. Finally, I can bath once again. A group called Asap Science has created a video that gives a pretty definitive answer. Watch the video above to get the answer. While it may be a little too technical for fourth graders, it should be fine for middle schoolers though. Hopefully they will make a video explaining when Omar will write another blog post 🙂

SimCity for the classroom- Ohhhh yeah!


SimCity is probably one of the most popular PC games ever created. For those of you who have never played it (your loss by the way) you design and manage a city. You can make it pretty easy by just building buildings, roads and power plants to more complex activities such as managing the water supply, designing highways and public transportation and helping to from disasters in the city. It was the first true sandbox game I ever played and loved it. SimCity is now owned by Electronic Arts (EA) and they are planning on creating an online educational community centered around the soon to be released SimCityEDU. The game will focus on supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. Either way, it should be pretty awesome. I, for one, am very intrigued.

  • You can read more about it here.

Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?

So we chatted about educational games in our latest podcast, more specifically DimensionU. I’m working on a longer post about educational games but in the meantime, I found an awesome video that exemplifies gamification.

Click on the break and watch the video. Did they accomplish their goal? What effects did the “game” have? Continue reading “Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?”