SAIS recently welcomed Josh Lutkus and Sarah-Frances Uffman from The Social Institute for an informative webinar, Revealing 2022’s Biggest Trends With Students, Tech, and Social Media.

The team shared information from The Social Student Report, a nationwide survey of more than 10,000 students in K-12 schools. “Texting, gaming, and all things social are where students hang out with friends, develop relationships, find inspiration, explore new interests, stay informed, follow role models, make purchases, and connect across borders and cultures.”

Common Sense Media investigated social media use among young people in The Role of Media During the Pandemic: Connection, Creativity, and Learning for Tweens and Teens. While parents and educators may be concerned over the amount of time students spend on social media, research shows that it has played a critically important role in their mental health and wellness throughout the pandemic. This infographic shares many of the findings, including that more than half used social media to hang out with friends and play games together online during the pandemic. Almost 80% of teens and tweens credited social media for teaching them how to do something they were interested in like learning to juggle, building a computer, constructing a Lego car, and tie-dying clothes.

It’s important to talk to students about social media and that talk may need to happen sooner that you think. “From gaming and social media to online classes, children are more connected to the digital world than ever before. This gives them access to information, entertainment, and opportunities parents never even dreamt of at their age. However, access comes with the risk of objectionable content, phishing scams, bullying, and grooming, so teaching kids how to face these very real dangers is key.

By instilling good online habits at an early age, we can help little ones grow up to be healthy, secure digital citizens.” The article When to have the online-security talk with your kids from Popular Science helps parents and educators know when and how to talk to students about staying safe online.

ISM extends this advice in the article How to Talk to Students About Emotionally Charged Media: “While fully protecting children from what’s on their screens isn’t feasible, there are proactive steps you can take to support them as they try to make sense of what they’re seeing—especially if it may be confusing, overwhelming, or frightening.” In 2015, ISM found that most kids had a smartphone by age 13. In 2019 that age had decreased to 11.

Organizations like The Social Institute encourage parents and schools to empower students and elevate the positive. The International Society for Technology in Education shares 9 Ways Real Students Use Social Media for Good. These ways include sharing tools and resources, collaborating with peers, and showcasing student work.

Staying in the Know

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are yesterday’s news, but do you know Discord and Twitch? Dr. Delaney Ruston of Screenagers talked to Mike Caruso of Youth Era about Discord, Twitch, and Mental Health, What To Know. Both Twitch and Discord create online communities centered around video gaming and offer opportunities for students to socialize with their friends. Like most social media platforms, adults and children should always watch out for users posing as someone they are not. 

Feeling left out? The Social Institute asked kids across the country what they wish adults knew about social media. The top 10 included: the stigma is more harmful than social media itself, screen time is not always a waste of time, and social media helps with the real feeling of isolation.

Developing Social Media Policies

In Teachers, Teens, and Tweets: Developing Effective Social Media Policies for Independent Schools, Venable guides schools in creating a social media policy from a legal perspective, offering considerations for both employee and student policies. The article advises schools to regularly revisit their policies to ensure inclusion of current platforms and appropriate training.

Finalsite’s How to Create a School Social Media Policy: Your 5-Step Guide encourages schools to establish a baseline for privacy protection and review the policy with their legal counsel.

The Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) has a few samples of social media policies to give schools a starting point or ideas for revision.

Do you know how different departments and teachers are currently using social media with students? What communication tools are being used by clubs, sports, and classes? It might be a good idea to conduct a social media audit to find out what platforms teachers, coaches, and advisors are requiring of students to stay informed of meetings, practices, and assignments. In Why Are Your Kids Required To Be On Social Media, Screenagers looks at the pros and cons of popular communication channels like GroupMe, Huddl, TeamSnap, and more.

When the Good Goes Bad

In the Venable Insights Hashtags and Headlines: The Rise of Social Media, experts address how to handle concerns when those in the school community use social media to air grievances, express political views, and discuss hot-button issues. They advise schools to revisit social media policies and consider whether they address the latest challenges and issues that may arise.

In 10 Tips for Handling Negative Online Comments About Your School, ISM suggests that schools not ignore negative comments. Instead, they encourage schools to acknowledge and explain, demonstrating to current and prospective families that they are engaged and interested in receiving critical feedback.

What can schools do about social media activity that takes place off campus? In the NAIS article Creating Policies for Social Media Discipline, attorneys discuss how schools leaders can handle discipline when students violate social media policies and encourage schools to be proactive in this rapidly evolving area.