Use Of Social Media In Education: Social Learning Theory

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Table of contents

  1. Social Media
  2. Bandura’s Theory
  3. How does Bandura’s theory relate to social media?
  4. Erikson’s Theory
  5. How does this pertain to social media?
  6. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory
  7. How does ecological theory relate to social media?
  8. Tying it all together
  9. References

National Geographic conducted an interview with a group of nine-year-old children to discuss how they felt about their respective genders, and what, if anything, would they change. I my initial reaction to the video was, “how could nine-year-old’s possibly have an opinion on this broad and deep topic,” to my surprise a lot of these children were very insightful. I found it very interesting on how the children’s world views seemed to be more complex depending on what culture and part of the world the child was from. It seemed that a lot of the female children felt they could not do certain things, not because they are not physically able, but in my opinion because of their culture, and the way their gender identity is defined.

Gender identity is defined as, “a person’s perception of having a particular gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.” Campaign, Human. Tomee War Bonnet said in her interview, “I can’t be treated like I wanted to,” it is sad and terrifying to see such a negative thought has already been instilled in a nine-year-old’s brain. How did she come to learn this? Zeng Jingwen, was taught that “a girl’s skin is thinner, and it will break and bleed”, instilling in her that women a frail creatures. Zimrat Goldstein said “it makes [her] sad when people treat me like I’m not there”, further perpetuating that women are invisible or have no voice.

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On a more positive note, I will say that the girls in the video to seem to have strong voices, and I hope that the grow into women that have the support of the their cultural community, but develop a stronger sense of self, and what women are truly capable of!

Social Media

In the year 2019, we live in an age where social media is not only prevalent in our day to day lives, but digital technology is literally at out fingertips. With access to so much information and connectivity to so many people, one begins to wonder, how, if all does this affect a child’s development? Is there something to be learned from using social media to better communicate with children? I will briefly explore these possibilities through different development theorists; Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, Erik Erikson’s theory on psychological development, and finally, Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory.

Bandura’s Theory

In 1977, Bandura wrote a book titled, Social Learning Theory, he stated “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.” Bandura’s theory ties together aspects from both behavioral and cognitive learning through attention, memory, and motivation. To summarize Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, people [children] learn from each other through observations, modeling, and imitation, but this does not necessarily mean the behavior will change, Santrock, J. (n.d.). Children. 14th ed. An easy everyday example of this would be engaging in a sport, lets say basketball, you’ve never physically played this sport, but you know how to play. How? Because you have watched your friends play, the NBA playoffs, and some college basketball. By watching these games you have a general understanding of the game, and the actions you must demonstrate to play the game, i.e. dribbling.

How does Bandura’s theory relate to social media?

In social media, specifically sources like Facebook or Instagram, we consume so many images. When things become wildly popular they “go viral”, or they become their own hashtag challenge, creating a mental image for the consumer. Have you ever heard of the #Icebucketchallenge ? To raise awareness for ALS a celebrity challenged another to dump a bucket of ice-cold water over themselves. To Bandura’s point, the world observed the video, the video caught the world’s attention and the video was modeled, and eventually imitated, by the mainstream masses; motivating, us to make a change or impact by supporting research for ALS.

Erikson’s Theory

Erikson believed that personality develops through eight stages; and in each stage the person would be presented with a problem that would either hinder them or progress them along. If the person became stagnant in any stage it would result in a poor sense of self, but if the person was able to over-come the presented problem and progress through the additional stages the end result would be a well-adjusted personality.

How does this pertain to social media?

Social media suggests that users be at least 13 years of age. That would put users in the Identity vs Role Confusion stage. In this stage individuals are beginning to question who they are and developing a sense of self. If successfully developed an individual will remain true to themselves and their identity, while failure to do so would lead to a weak sense of self and role confusion. Rageliene, T (2019). In the realm of social media we see active users from as young as 9 years old with no age cap, suggesting that individuals are in different stages, and perhaps some more impressionable than others, causing them to be stunted in the identity vs role confusion stage, but also using social media differently.

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory

This theory consists of five layers surrounding the individual. The microsystem is the immediate environment in which the child is supported. Mesosystem is built from the relationships of the microsystem and looks at the stability of those relationships. Whereas in the exosystem, the dynamics of those relationships are reviewed. The macrosystem is broad, it corresponds to culture. Lastly, the chronosystem, this system relates to the changes over time.

How does ecological theory relate to social media?

Facebook may have started the popular trend, naming it a “community”, that would correspond as the mesosystem. Other uses, and the content that we consume would then be the exosystem. If we have an unpleasant relationship with those involved in [my] Facebook community, then I may feel rejected and may not want to participate.

Tying it all together

While social media is not always used for its intended use of connectivity, there is a lot to be gained in communicating with the youths in the growing digital age. Parents should speak with their children about the amount of time used on social media, but also encourage them to understand a world outside of their own. If a child is into anime, help them find that community on social media, suggesting they are not the only one. Teachers could use social media to create a community to connect student with their classes. The students could then interface with their peers. Teachers could “hashtag” the assignments using other community hashtags to show how the hashtag relates in the classroom and daily society. Use social media to share fieldtrip experiences. The photo depicts what Bronfenbrenner would call a healthy ecological system. The teacher in the photo clearly has a strong relationship with the individuals, microsystem. Their was evidently a conversation with the parents and teacher to coordinate the costumes, exosystem. The comment posted below the photo is the macrosystem, and lastly the #Blacklivesmatter is the chronosystem. Erikson would say the two children will have a strong sense of self, interacting with peers and their teacher “pretending” they are scientist from history and the film. Bandura would say that this teacher has modeled how to be an involved teacher and that these children have the opportunity to imitate her, as well as the social media community.


  1. The campaign, Human. 'Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Definitions | Human Rights Campaign'. Human Rights Campaign, 2019,
  2. Ragelienė, Tija. 'Links Of Adolescents Identity Development And Relationship With Peers: A Systematic Literature Review'. Pubmed Central (PMC), 2019, Accessed 7 Nov 2019.
  3. Santrock, John W. Children. 14th ed.
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Use Of Social Media In Education: Social Learning Theory. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
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