Panicking about social media and screens could be stopping parents from seeing the value of various platforms.
While protecting your online presence is any parent’s priority No. 1, education experts point to social media’s creative merits compared to “boring” measures like NAPLAN.
Children’s digital literacy* even means many older kids have built a treasure trove* that’s ripe for repurposing* into those more traditional forms like short stories, plays, poetry and screenplays.
Deakin University senior lecturer in curriculum Dr Lucinda McKnight called NAPLAN tasks “dead writing” and says kids are “researching … all the time” on social media, calling their content a “massive goldmine” of ideas.
If your parents always start with fears and risks when discussing social media at home, she suggested asking them to give you a chance to show them why you love it or why you’re curious to try it.
Parental anxiety about social media comes from the genuine safety issues kids experience while using these platforms, and the very real challenge of protecting children from harm. E-safety educator and presenter Marty McGauran said platforms including Instagram, TikTok and SnapChat do have “very clear minimum age requirements of 13” and they should offer a junior user experience for the safety of that age group as well.
Parental controls and supervision are essential for younger users and help manage risk. Safely trying social media together could be a great chance to share, learn and create something fun with your mum and dad.
And with the annual Kids News Short Story Competition currently open for entries, McKnight said all the budding authors out there should consider anything you produce on social media as “a form of writing that (you) can use for inspiration for other types of writing”.
“They’re thinking about what they love … and curating* quirky things they’re curious about,” she said. “Whether it be beautiful sunsets or funny things in their lives, they’re taking photos … making montages*, putting together dream jobs or tallest buildings in the world or what it would be like to wake up as a new Marvel superhero.
“Everything that they’re participating in they can switch around creatively: what are the silly videos that cats would make of humans?”
Genres like “the explainer” are full of story potential, while filters can help refine heroes and villains and characters can be created and defined simply by the emojis they choose.
“It might be a parent or an older person choosing all the inappropriate emojis, getting them all wrong and making it a humorous piece of writing like that,” Dr McKnight said.
Best-selling children’s author and comedian Oliver Phommavanh’s novel Don’t Follow Vee has the young protagonist* tracked by 100,000 followers via her mum’s Instagram account. The fun really starts when Vee tries sabotaging* her profile but becomes a new internet sensation instead.
“It’s our job to get our characters into uncomfortable, embarrassing, squirmy, cringe-y situations,” Phommavanh said.
He added that social media offers endless scope to ask, “How can you get the character in trouble, how can we get them into more trouble – what could go wrong?”
Like Dr McKnight, he is intrigued by the rise “the expert”, particularly in digital subcultures*.
“Hang out with these people who love sneakers and hear their stories,” Phommavanh said.
“Maybe it’s their first pair … maybe they have a favourite basketballer or favourite rapper and they want to wear their shoes – there’s always some kind of connection to things.”
Avid short story writer Scarlett Bullock, 11, loves TikTok’s draft function, which allows her to store content she doesn’t post but “might be able to develop”. Mum Camilla administers the account and controls the settings.
“They’re like memories to me,” the year 6 Manly Village Public School student said. “I can see videos from when I was in year 3 and I find that hilarious.”
TikTok currently boasts around a billion users and Scarlett cites the platform as a primary source of inspiration right alongside books.
“So many other people have so many ideas,” she said. “There’s bound to be something that catches your eye and inspires you to draw, read or write something.”
A fan of thrillers and mysteries, these are also the kind of stories Scarlett likes to write – which she still does the old fashioned way.
“If I decide that I want to write a story, I grab my little journal and my notepad and I write down some ideas in my notepad and go on with writing the story,” she said.
Entries for the Kids News Short Story Competition are open until 24 June. Enter below.
Ask your parents and teachers for help making the most of your social content by showing you how it can work across other mediums. Here are Dr McKnight’s top tips to help get you started.
- Writing is social, so think about the audience you’re writing for and what effect you want to achieve
- Start with what you love
- Consider what makes people curious
- Be brave and experiment with ideas
- Ensure you have a simple, foolproof system for finding all your great ideas again
- Use layering across platforms to tell different aspects of the story to different audiences
- Try using a series structure to tell a story, as in a YouTube video series
- Share your creations safely and get audience feedback
- Have fun
- The internet’s endless hunger for compelling* content will create new career pathways, so dip a toe in user experience writing, virtual reality scriptwriting, rolling news blogs, podcasts … the list goes on
- literacy: as well as the ability to read and write, literacy refers to having knowledge and ability in a certain area
- trove: a special or valuable collection of something
- repurposing: finding a new use for something, adapting, adjusting
- curating: carefully choosing, organising and presenting something
- montages: series of images, moving or still, edited together to create an unbroken sequence
- protagonist: the central character in a story
- sabotaging: ruining, damaging or destroying something on purpose
- subcultures: groups of people that have something in particular in common
- compelling: exciting and interesting and making you want to watch or listen
- How might emojis be useful in short story writing?
- What social media platform does Vee’s mum use in the Phommavanh’s novel Don’t Follow Vee?
- Phommavanh suggests social media offers endless scope for what?
- What does Scarlett love about the TikTok draft function?
- What does Scarlett do when she decides she wants to write a story?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Write a story
What is the most “uncomfortable, embarrassing, squirmy, cringe-y” situation you can think of?
Write a description of this situation. Your purpose is to make your reader as uncomfortable, embarrassed and/or cringe-y as possible.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
How would you convince parents that social media can help you to learn and be more creative? Create something – an advertisement, written argument, song lyrics, poster, whatever you want – that will help them understand what Dr McKnight is trying to say.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Communication Design
Imagine you were there during the event being discussed in the article, or for the interview.
Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.
Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.