Social media is everywhere.

A couple clicks and you are instantly connected with 271 million Twitter users and 1.23 billion Facebook users, not to mention the new social apps created each day. While everyone may not agree with the broad applications of social media in our society, its influence and staying power are clear. These social media outlets have spilled into all aspects of daily life, from politics and business to dating and pop culture. It is no longer just a hobby, but rather a vital form of communication.

The new generation of school-aged children is in constant contact with social media, which could provide great possibilities for learning. As this medium gains momentum, shouldn’t we integrate it into our education system? Here is why social media should be taught to today’s students:

1. They’re already logged in

Want to know about the coolest new app? Need an Instagram tip? Chances are a member of Generation Z can help! Today’s school-aged children have been raised in the midst of the social media frenzy and, without much thought, have acquired technology and communication know-how. Tweets and hashtags are already a part of their daily jargon, so introducing social media into a classroom setting would be a natural transition. If educators could relay lessons in relation to social media, they would be tapping into the familiarity and interest of their students. For instance, explaining current events in terms of media reaction or a Twitter conversation can be an engaging way for students to learn, while also revealing a broader spectrum of opinion than just what is printed in a textbook. Many teachers are already taking the lead and have incorporated social media into daily lesson plans.

2. We can harness the power for good, not evil

Because social media has been available since the new generation could speak, they have gained a high level of online comfort. Attempts to curb the content they post and the connections they make can be a difficult task. By integrating social media skills into the classroom, educators have the opportunity to introduce the safe and positive applications of social media. Negative uses, like cyberbullying, can be tackled head on and counteracted with more effective forms of communication. Students can instead be encouraged to use social media to carry out and achieve academic functions and interact with classmates in a positive way.

3. Online networking and writing is prominent

Traditional forms of communication have long been a part of elementary and middle school education. Students are taught basic concepts like formatting written letters, speech giving and presentation skills. In an age where email is more popular than postal mail and online newspapers have become the norm, the time has come to bring online writing techniques to the classroom. If education incorporated social media, students could learn how to make a positive virtual presence that will impress, rather than alarm, future schools and potential employers. Introducing school-aged children to the seriousness of online communication will help them develop positive and effective online behaviors. As they mature into young professionals, they will better understand the importance of networking and online connections.

4. They will determine the future of social media

Older generations were introduced to social media post-education, and had to learn the new medium on their own. As a result, it took years before most professionals incorporated social media into their business. In comparison, the newer generations will live and work in a time where many social media practices have already been established. Now that the groundwork has been laid out, we can focus on more progressive uses of social media and new, exciting possibilities. Experts have already begun to cast their predictions for prospective social media use, but only a proper education can prepare the bright young minds of today for a successful social media future.

By Bianca Cardaci