Apps Stirring Up Trouble in Schools

This year’s hottest social media can fill the school day with drama and distraction. 
By Caroline Knorr 
Apps Stirring Up Trouble in Schools

Ask any middle or high school teacher what their biggest classroom challenge is, and it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll say “cellphones.” Makes sense. Today, 95 percent of teens have access to a cellphone, and nearly half say they’re on them “constantly.” Putting aside for a moment the need to find solutions to this problem, inquiring minds want to know: What the heck is on kids’ phones that they can’t go an entire class without them?

Two words: killer apps. Specifically, the ones that play into the tween and teen brain’s need for stimulation and peer approval and its weakness for thinking through consequences — in other words, stuff that lets them gossip, socialize, play games, and — if they’re so inclined — not work too hard. These apps are designed to capture kids’ attention and hold it for as long as possible. (Learn about the tricks social media designers use to keep kids hooked.) And once an app gains critical mass (like, when every kid in school is on it), your social life takes a major hit if you don’t, for example, play Fortnite, keep up a Snapstreak, or stalk your crush on Find My Friends. And, honestly, it takes a pretty steadfast kid to resist tapping into the internet hive mind for answers to tough homework questions (especially when everyone else seems to be doing it).

No wonder teachers have such an uphill battle keeping tweens and teens focused in class. But you can help your student by discussing this issue at home. In fact, by simply being aware of some of the key apps that tend to stir up trouble in schools, whether due to social drama, distraction, or something worse — like cheating — you can start a conversation with your kid that could save them and the teacher a lot of headaches. And while you don’t have to know every single detail of all the popular apps, it helps to have an awareness of when, why, and how they’re being used and to help your kid manage their own use and that of their friends. Most teachers would probably agree that the internet has been a mostly positive aspect of the middle and high school years. But students, with the support of parents, need to use it responsibly. (Learn more ways to help kids manage their app use and stay focused in school.)

Check out some of the apps that can potentially stir up drama in schools this year:

Snapchat. The original disappearing-message app has metamorphosed into a megaportal for chatting, finding your friends on a map, sharing images, reading the news, watching videos, and much, much more. As one of the most important apps for teens, it takes up a significant portion of their day. One of those time-consuming activities that occupy students during the school day is Snapstreaks, which require users to trade snaps within a 24-hour period. The longest streaks number in the thousands of days — and some kids maintain streaks with multiple people.

Tik Tok – including musical.ly. What started as a lip-synching app is now a hugely popular, full-fledged video-sharing service. The ability to “go live” at any time — meaning to stream yourself live (yes, on the internet) — has added a whole ‘nother level to the time tweens and teens can spend dancing, singing, pranking, and performing skits to music or other recorded sounds. While much of the content is fine, a lot of it is extremely iffy for kids, and when you watch it, you can see plenty recorded during the school day.

Games such as Fortnite and HQ Live Trivia Game Show (HQ for short). Fortnite has all the hallmarks of being a teacher’s worst nightmare: It’s easy to play, highly social, and super compelling. The hugely popular survival game is played in short bursts (until you die — which is often), so it’s tailor-made for students trying to get a bit of fun in between lunch and algebra class. Some schools are banning the game, leading to knockoff versions that get around the school network’s blacklist. HQis the smash-hit trivia game that’s played for real prize money. Each 12-minute game is hosted live as hundreds of thousands of players log in to answer 12 multiple-choice questions on a wide variety of trivia topics. Games usually take place twice on weekdays and once on weekends (the company experiments with different airtimes to keep players on their toes). Sponsors including Nike and Warner Bros., and big jackpots timed with massive events such as the NBA finals, show that HQ is actively cultivating a young audience.

Homework helpers such as PhotomathSlader, and, of course, Google. What do you do if you’ve been goofing off all day, or just feverishly multitasking, and can’t finish your geometry problems? Look ’em up. Apps that supply all the answers are only a few taps away. And don’t even get us started on home assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home, all of which can be programmed to provide tutor-like assistance.

People finders such as Find My Friends and Mappen. Kids love being in touch with their friends 24/7/365, and location apps make it easy to arrange get-togethers and make plans with your posse. But these apps have a dark side, too. Kids feel pressured to be “on” all the time, partly because of friends’ expectations that one should always be available. Stalking — either of your kid or by your kid — can be a major issue. And, riskiest of all, some location-aware apps encourage face-to-face meet-ups with strangers.

Trend Lines: The Future of Social Media Education

NAIS

Summer 2018

By Laura Tierney

Teens build relationships with friends through FaceTime and group chats. They nurture friendships with compliments on Instagram and Snapchat. They stay in touch with friends and family overseas with messages on WhatsApp. Social media is just how they socialize these days.

Students are spending an average nine hours each day on their screens, according to Common Sense Media, and social media has become one of the greatest influences on our children’s happiness, health, safety, and future success, according to other reports. Many of the parents and school leaders I’ve talked with initially just wanted social media to go away, but now that it’s here to stay, some adults and students are beginning to see it as a powerful and positive tool.

According to The Social Institute’s 2017–2018 Social Media Survey with nearly 4,450 students from independent schools, more than 80 percent of fifth- through 12th-graders said they believed that social media can have a positive impact on their world, whether that means their school or local community, state, or country.

This is why many independent schools are adopting a proactive, growth-minded, and sustainable approach that empowers students, parents, and educators to positively navigate social media. They strengthen their reputations, protect their privacy, follow positive role models, and more. This new approach better aligns with a school’s mission and values, supporting students’ health and wellness. The future of social media is bright, and it’s one where we empower and equip, rather than scare and restrict.

The Current Landscape for Schools

Since social media really took off 10 years ago, few institutions or parents have found a relevant, effective solution to helping kids navigate the world of posts, texts, and selfies. Why? There are three current issues at play: what schools teach about social media, who teaches it, and how it’s taught.

Schools continue to approach social media education as a matter of digital citizenship. Common Sense Media defines digital citizenship as the ability to “think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.”

We all want students to have digital skills, but telling students to use “digital citizenship” when using technology is like telling them to use “proper navigation” when driving a car. In the world of social media, relevance is everything, and “digital citizenship” is simply not relevant.

Furthermore, most schools use a top-down approach in which adults teach students. Of course, this happens for nearly every school subject, why not social media? The problem again lies with relevance.

According to the 2017–2018 Social Media Survey, 100 percent of students said they believed they know more about social media than their parents or school faculty. How are schools and parents supposed to teach something teens believe they know better (and likely do)?

Lastly, digital citizenship is often taught by adults strictly through “don’ts.” Don’t post this, and don’t share that. Don’t join that app, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. However, imagine if a coach only taught how not to throw a ball or how not to shoot it. Players wouldn’t know what to do. Students are not being taught what to do on social media.

This relevance-lacking, top-down, don’ts-driven approach is failing our students. Students are progressing through school unequipped to navigate life with a phone in their hand. They are overwhelmed by the pressures of cyberbullying. They are being rejected by colleges because of racist Facebook posts. Sleep deprivation among teens is rising because they can’t put their phones away at night. Nude photos of teens are shared around school. Tweens are committing suicide because they’re cyberbullied.

As long as students feel like they are being lectured, they will tune out. They will fall victim to the same landmines, and this negative cycle will continue, potentially tarnishing the reputation of both students
and schools.

The Future of Social Media Education

We must refine social media education with a positive and proactive approach. The Social Institute works with several independent schools to implement such an approach and empowers students, parents, and faculty. We are halfway through a three-year strategic partnership with Ravenscroft School (NC) and have learned four best practices.

Integrate the curriculum. Rather than putting “digital citizenship” in a corner, Ravenscroft integrates social media life skills into its school’s advisory program, which encourages character development, health, and wellness. The school weaves lessons throughout its advisory program, which promotes “leading self,”
“leading with others,” and “changing your world.”

Students learn to have their social media profiles represent their true self and character. They learn to use empathy when engaging with and posting about others. And because social media is a student’s microphone to the world, sixth- through 12th-grade students learn how to use platforms to spark positive change. The program resonates with students because it supports their belief that there is no distinction between your “real self”
and “digital self.” It’s simply “you” and your ability to have high integrity and character—with or without a device in your hand.

Use a bottom-up approach. Rather than using a top-down approach, in which students are lectured by adults, Ravenscroft students co-lead the program. Student focus groups help develop materials and lesson plans, ensuring they are most relevant to the apps and behaviors students witness online. It’s effective because younger students admire the older student-leaders, and student-leaders help set the standard around social media use at the school. With a train-the-trainer approach, Ravenscroft’s 11th- and 12th-grade student-leaders are now learning to teach sixth- through 10th-grade students, parents, and faculty about positive social media use. It’s a team approach.

Focus on the do’s. Rather than harping “don’t do this” and “don’t share that,” we have found that reinforcing the actions to take allows students to strengthen their reputations, better handle the challenges, and change their worlds for the better. In Ravenscroft’s #WinAtSocial program, students learn seven Social Standards—including “protect your privacy like you’re famous,” and “use your mic for good.” (See “Gold Standards,” below.)

Assemble a cross-departmental team. The power of social media impacts nearly every administrative department. Susan Perry, Ravenscroft’s assistant head of school for student affairs, says, “Our students and parents have longed for a sustained, systemic message about how to connect conversations and educate about technology and social media. Our work with our faculty, students, and parents allows us to have an ongoing, supportive, and educational dialogue about how to leverage social media for respectful outcomes. We feel our commitment to community health must include such a systemic educational approach to understanding the potential positive impact social media can bring.”

How We Get There

As one of the most powerful influences on a child being happy, healthy, and successful, social media needs to be a priority. Schools have the opportunity to get ahead of the game. It starts with administration teams determining why it’s a priority and championing a holistic approach to educating students, parents, and faculty. The upfront work is hard, but the impact is remarkable—these are lifelong skills that students require.

Once schools make the commitment, there will be less helicoptering and more huddling. Less fear and more trust. Less bullying and more empathy. Fewer fire drills and more high-fives. Less negativity and more positivity. The future of social media education is bright, and it’s one where students are empowered and hold one another to high standards, whether online or off.  ▪

How does your school teach students, parents, and faculty about social media? Tell us on Twitter at @NAISnetwork.

AUTHOR

Laura Tierney is founder and president of The Social Institute, which empowers students, parents, and educators to use social media positively. She works with a number of independent schools as well as organizations like the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Help Tweens and Teens Clean Up Their Feeds

Eliminate the posts that lead to negative emotions, and load up on stuff that feeds your soul. By Caroline Knorr 
Help Tweens and Teens Clean Up Their Feeds

You know that girl from TV — the one whose Instagram always looks perfect even with #nofilter? Or what about that amazing singer on musical.lywhom you can’t believe is only 14? And then there’s that kid whose Snapchat stories of Coachella got 500 views. Your kids may be following people like this right now. Obsessing. Over. Every. Detail. And starting to feel kind of crappy about it.

Keeping tabs on the rich, famous, and just-plain-cool is nothing new, of course. But social media can take that fixation to a pretty dark place. The feeling is common enough that some doctors are calling it social media anxiety disorder (SMAD) — although what most kids have is more like FOMO… on steroids. While it’s tough to see your kid in despair, there’s a good solution that doesn’t require an all-out social media ban: Just help your kid clean up their feed.

Self-comparison is a natural part of the tween and teen years. And for most kids, so is social media. While there are plenty of good things kids get out of their online connections, sometimes the combo can lead to a negative feedback loop that gnaws away at them. Depending on whom they’re following and what’s going on in their lives, their overall self-assessment can cycle from wistful (“I wish I was like that”) to highly critical (“What’s wrong with me that I can’t be like that?”). Even for kids who know when to close their laptops and move on, their self-esteem may take a hit. And for the more self-critical, anxiety and depression are real risks.

If your kid mostly enjoys social media but suffers the occasional bout of self-doubt, help them find a healthier balance. Ask if — or what — they’re already doing to take care of themselves. They may already be tweaking their social media feeds to limit posts that make them feel bad. Or they may be intentionally trying to curb the endless scrolling through the cool kid’s Insta. Work together to prune out the parts of their social media feeds that trap them into judgy comparisons, and encourage the stuff that bolsters positive social connections, supportive relationships, and validation of their inner qualities.

Encouraging your kids to see and appreciate their individual strengths has always been a part of parenting. And learning to stop comparing yourself to others is a part of growing up. By helping kids clean up their feeds, you’re bringing together two critical aspects of raising kids in the digital age. Try these tips:

Identify the triggers. Maybe it’s a certain couple who always look happy and in love, when your kid really wants a romantic relationship. Maybe it’s ads from a dog-toy delivery service that makes your kid miss your old mutt. Explore what’s behind their emotions. Sharing your own FOMO-induced feelings will likely get your kid to open up. Once they recognize the cause of their emotions, they can take steps to manage triggers.

Fine-tune levels of engagement. All social media offers ways to see and hear less from your contacts — without totally unfriending them. Check out settings such as these from popular platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter: unfollow (you’re still friends, but their posts won’t show up in your feed); hide post (see fewer posts from someone); snooze (temporarily stop seeing posts); mute (turn them off for a while); and do not disturb (temporarily block the person).

Turn off notifications. Most social media apps send updates — and none of them are life-and-death. To prevent your kid from interruptions — especially ones that might trigger negative thoughts — you can encourage your kid to check their social media once or twice at a certain time of day — say, 4 p.m. That might be a stretch, but you can still encourage them to turn off notifications either in the app itself or on their phone.

Follow people who nourish your soul. Kim Kardashian may be all over social media, but there are lots of folks who post uplifting, life-affirming, thoughtful, inspiring things that get kids thinking — and maybe even behaving — in ways that make them feel good about themselves. Follow these kinds of people.

Suggest apps to help with focus. Just as you can use technology to excess, you can use it to rein yourself in. These productivity apps help keep kids on task, boost concentration, and remind you to stop doing stuff that’s not good for you.

What Parents Need to Know About Social Media and Anxiety

Learn to recognize the warning signs of anxiety disorder and help your kid keep social media use healthy and productive. By Caroline Knorr 
What Parents Need to Know About Social Media and Anxiety

From cyberbullying to FOMO to cruel comments, social media can be a land mine for kids. Issues we parents never had to worry about, such as an intimate photo texted to the entire school or Instagram videos of a birthday party we weren’t invited to, are now a risk for many tweens and teens. With kids’ digital well-being a concern, researchers are exploring potential links between social media and the rise in teen suicide ratestech addiction, and loss of real-life social skills. And many parents are wondering: Is social media causing my kid to have anxiety?

It’s an important question — and one that makes for compelling headlines for worried parents. While it’s too early to say with certainty (this is, after all, the first generation of “digital natives”), the reality is somewhat nuanced. Some research has observed a relationship between social media use and anxiety in kids, but it’s difficult to know if and when social media is causing anxiety or whether kids who are anxious are turning to social media as a way to soothe themselves or seek support. How kids use social media matters, too: Social comparison and feedback-seeking behaviors have been associated with depressive symptoms, which often co-occur with anxiety.

Of course, it’s common for kids to feel anxious sometimes. But there’s a big difference between occasional anxiety and an anxiety disorder that requires professional care. If your kid is overly self-conscious, has uncontrollable and unrealistic anxiety, is unable to make it go away, and avoids things, you may want to seek help. (Learn more about anxiety in kids at the Child Mind Institute.) For these kids, social media may act as a trigger for — though not the root cause of — their anxious feelings. There are also kids, who, for a variety of reasons, may be more sensitive to the anxiety-producing effects of social media. For example, kids with social anxiety disorder may prefer online interactions over face-to-face interactions. Bottom line: You may not know the impact of social media on your kid until issues surface.

Unfortunately, simply cutting off social media isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s such a huge part of many kids’ lives that not having access to social media could take a toll. In fact, being connected to friends through social media may counterbalance some of its negative effects.

Without conclusive research to back up claims that social media causes anxiety — and some evidence to show it’s beneficial — it’s up to you to keep tabs on how your kid’s doing. Though it adds an extra layer to your parenting duties, it’s a good idea to get a good sense of your kid’s online life. Ask kids to give you a tour of their social media world. As they’re showing you around, you might hear some of the positive stuff you weren’t expecting, as well as some of the problem areas your kid could use help with. Also, add social media to the “wellness checks” that you already do. For example, when you ask how they slept and what they ate, ask how they’re feeling about social media. Is it mostly positive, helpful, and supportive, or do they want to step back but aren’t sure how? Here are some more tips for keeping social media a positive for kids:

Encourage self-care. Seeing photos of a trip to the beach your friends didn’t invite you to can really sting. If your kid is super bummed or tired of digital drama, suggest they take a break from social media for a while. In fact, if they post a status update that they’re taking a break, their friends might be very accepting because they’ve had similar feelings.

Help kids put social media in perspective. People post stuff that makes their lives look perfect — not the homework struggles, or the fight they had with their dad, or the hours it took to look as good as possible for the camera. Remind kids that social media leaves the messy stuff out — and that everyone has ups and downs.

Encourage offline activities. In a world where kids could spend their days lying around looking at Instagram, it’s doubly important for them to feel as though they’re cultivating their inner lives. Prompt them to balance social media with soul-nourishing activities such as hobbies, exercise, reading, and helping others. Otherwise, what are they going to brag about on social media?

Talk about their feelings. Ask them what it feels like to look at other kids’ feeds. Is there a tipping point from when they feel OK to when they start to feel bad about their own lives? Encourage them to stop before that feeling sets in and do something good for themselves instead.

Let them know you’re there for them. You may not understand everything about your kid’s online social life. But recognizing it’s important to them makes your kid feel valued — and more likely to come to you when they encounter problems.

Get help. If you see any cause for concern, including mood swings that seem to result from social media, not taking pleasure in activities he or she used to enjoy, and having accompanying symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, visit your kid’s pediatrician for a professional opinion.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.

A parents guide to Snapchat – what you need to know

Digital Parenting

Snapchat is a mobile app and is hugely popular with teens and young adults. Because it is a mobile app it only works on mobile and you download it from the App store (Apple phones) or the Google Play store (Android phones)

Snap Chat

When you download the app and you register an account it can then tell by looking at your phone’s contact list which of your friends are on snapchat. You can then request to connect with your friends and  you can send invites to anyone else in your address book to connect with you on snapchat.

In essence, the app allows you to

1. Take a photo (Or a 10 second vide0)  and then add text or drawings / doodles to the image. It’s a fun way of sending a message instead of a boring text message.

2. You can then send the snap to a friend or group of friends and it will self destruct within a set period of time (Between 1 – 10 seconds). The image then disappears forever (well, sort of).

3. Your friend can then reply with another image / message or they can simply instant message you back.

4. The other option is to post the photo to “Your story” where all your snapchat friends will be able to see the photo for 24 hours before it self destructs.

 

In this parents guide to Snapchat we will explain why kids like using it, what dangers you need to be aware of and how to advise and protect your child.

What age is it suitable for

You need to be aged 13 to sign up for Snapchat. However, many tweens sign up for it giving a bogus date of birth.

Snapchat launched a version of the service for kids younger than 13 called “Snapkidz”. It basically allows them to take the photo, add the drawings and doodles but they cannot then send it to anyone.

Why Do Kids like using it?

Tweens and Teens  love using it because;

  • It is a fun way to send a message. Why just send a text message saying   “I’m bored” when you can send a selfie of yourself making a stupid face and a drawing / doodle saying “I’m bored” . It’s a fun and creative way to liven up a text message
  • They share photos of themselves pulling  funny faces, random  things that  they see, funny photos of their pets.
  • The fact that the photo disappears so quickly means they can share something stupid or something that makes them look stupid without them having to worry that they are going to be made fun of. It is a “no pressure” alternative to the permanence of Facebook and Twitter where whatever they post stays around forever.

snapchat

 

  • Some kids love it because it isn’t possible for parents to monitor their messages . All messages and images shared in the app disappear and cannot be viewed by a parent who picks up the phone. Also, if you have parental monitoring software on the phone it cannot monitor what is shared on Snapchat.
  • Parents can see images that the teen has been tagged on in Facebook and Instagram but Snapchat images that are sent directly to someone (not shared to all contact via the “Story”) are not visible to parents.

What dangers do parents need to be aware of?

1. Sexting

Even though Snapchat has been associated with “sexting” in the news, the vast majority of kids are not using Snapchat for that purpose.  If your child is using Snapchat it is wrong to assume that they are “sexting”. However, sexting does happen amongst teens and it is something that you should be aware of as a parent.

Many parents think that sexting involves 2 people sending either risqué or explicit text messages to each other. However, sexting more typically involves people taking;

  • Selfie photos / videos of themselves either in their underwear or in the nude. Lots of these images existing on the internet where teenagers take the shot facing the bathroom mirror and these are referred to as either nude selfies, mirror selfies or underwear shots.
  • Photos of their breasts or genitals

Sexting

These photos are then typically sent to the persons boyfriend or girlfriend and usually sent either by text message or via a messaging service such as Whats App, Kik messenger or Snapchat. Studies done in Ireland, the UK and the US indicate that a significant percentage (60%) of teenagers are being asked to take images of themselves with many going on to take images or videos of themselves (40%) and  then between 20% – 25% actually sending the images on.

See our Digital Parenting Guide to Sexting for more information.

Some teens do use Snapchat to send explicit selfies to a boyfriend / girlfriend because;

a) The images are not saved on the phones image folder  where they could be discovered by a parent.

b) The self destruct feature gives a sense that the image won’t be saved or shared. This is a false sense of security however because;

o   The person who receives the explicit image can take a screenshot and save it to their phone. (The sender will be notified if a screenshot has been taken.)

o   There are lots of apps available that integrate with Snapchat and allow the recipient to easily save the image before it self destructs. An example is an app called Snap Save.

2. Cyber Bullying

Social media is increasingly being used  by bullies to torment victims and the main social networks that are used, because of their sheer size, as Facebook and Twitter. View our digital parenting gude to cyber Bullying

However, Snapchat is also being used by cyberbullies in the following ways

1. Because the message disappears

Because the message and therefore the evidence, disappears within 10 seconds it is a perfect medium for bullies. For the victim is adds to the torment because they cannot show their parents the message and how they are being bullied.

2. Using images to bully

Bullies often send images of ugly animals with text comparing the victim to the animal or if they can take embarrassing photos of the victim they then send them to a large group on Snapchat – again, knowing that the image will disappear.

3.Feeling excluded

Many kids deliberately post photos to their “Story” of themselves doing activities or at a party  with their friends, in part to show who is there and who was not included. For the person who is being bullied / excluded from the group this compounds their feeling of exclusion.

 

About the author 

Evan is a digital marketing lecturer and trainer and also delivers digital parenting workshops throughout Ireland for schools and parent groups. He developed his digital media expertise in London where he was Head of European Marketing for Yahoo! Mobile, Head of Customer and New Media marketing at Orange and Head of Direct Marketing at BT. He has extensive experience of digital marketing across web and mobile covering the Irish, UK and European markets Evan is the founder of The Digital Parenting Academy and www.digitalparenting.ie

What Parents Need To Know About Snapchat

Common Sense Media recommends Snapchat for kids 16 and older

Parents need to know that Snapchat is a popular messaging app that allows teens to exchange user-generated photos, texts, videos, and calls — both audio and video. The developer claims that “Snaps” can’t be saved within the app and are only viewable for one to 10 seconds before disappearing from the recipient’s device, noting that the app notifies the sender if the recipient takes a screenshot of an image. However, several third-party programs easily intercept and store any Snaps sent to the user, and users can buy replays of Snaps via in-app purchase, negating the “temporary” aspect of the service. Also, as of 2017, users can play Snaps as long as they’d like until they exit that Snap, which deletes it as usual. If users opt to share their location, they can see friends on a “Snap Map” and see Snapchat Stories from other users in various locations, and if they do opt in, they can use “Ghost Mode” to see others but not be visible themselves. There’s also an option to share public stories on other social media platforms. The app has gained a reputation as a “sexting” app because outgoing (and incoming) pictures, videos, and texts are not stored on devices, but many teens use it simply to exchange fun, silly pictures. In addition, a video feature called Discover has curated content from outlets including CNN, Cosmopolitan, Warner Music, and Vice. The Discover content (which disappears after 24 hours, a much longer window than for other content) often features harsh language, sexual content, violence, advertisements, or videos with, for instance, a character flipping viewers “the bird,” and there is no option to opt out. In light of a feature called “Snapstreaks,” some kids may feel pressure to keep a streak (trading Snaps within 24 hours over a period of days) going. There is also a “Do Not Disturb” feature that lets teens mute threads without outright blocking anyone. As of 2016, Snapchat also has video-recording glasses called Specs available for purchase which record short videos that you can send to your phone and, from there, post to Snapchat. Through the World Lends, users can find Snapchat Art which will place AR art in select cities so users can find the exact location and see the AR image. Check out their Safety Center and content for parents to get more information. Read the app’s privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

How to Have Honest Conversations About Social Media with Students

Common Sense Media

When young people feel seen, heard, and respected, they will want to engage.

January 11, 2018

Rosalind Wiseman

Founder, Cultures of Dignity

Who hasn’t sent a text or email to the wrong person? Who hasn’t posted something online they later regretted or seen something in their feed that made them uncomfortable? These are difficult moments for people, no matter their age, and it’s natural to be unsure what to do. But the most common advice young people get about social media is usually limited to “Think before you send” and “Once you post something, it’s always there.” These clichés may be true, but they don’t help young people address the situation they’re in.

If you work with young people in any capacity, you are also teaching social media norms and expectations. But what do norms mean in the context of social media? Norms are a standard or pattern of social behavior that is typical or expected of a group. Our social media use is still so new that we are all trying to figure out what our social media norms are and should be. From when we use it to how and where, we are all trying to figure it out as we go.

We start by looking in the mirror. We must reflect on how we use social media ourselves. What is true for our students is also true for us.

When it comes to issues that impact their lives, young people are equal to us in subject-matter expertise, if not more so. But this is easy to forget. When we do, we miss the larger context and therefore the opportunity to actually accomplish our goals: teaching them how to apply critical thinking to the information they receive, recognizing when it is being used to manipulate their opinions and perceptions, defining what responsible social interactions online look like, and developing awareness about how its use can impact their sense of self and understanding of the world.

So how do we do this? We start by looking in the mirror. We must reflect on how we use social media ourselves. What is true for our students is also true for us. Social media is a constant social exchange (for better and worse), a way to maintain important connections and relationships, a place to find support and share interests with like-minded people (especially when you can’t find it in real life), and a source of information that profoundly impacts the way you see yourself and the world around you.

Reflecting on Your Own Experiences

At Cultures of Dignity, we believe that successfully teaching any kind of social and emotional learning requires teachers to ask themselves the same questions they ask their students. Before initiating a discussion with your students on topics of responsible social media use, take some time to reflect on your own experiences with this exercise:

Part One:
Put a check next to the question if you can answer “yes.” Have you …

  • Posted something, then checked repeatedly to see how many people liked it or made a comment?
  • Accidentally sent an email or text to the wrong person?
  • Been in school when someone showed you a post about you, a colleague, a parent, or a child that made you feel sad or anxious and didn’t know what to do next?
  • Had a friend or someone in your family post something that made you really upset and affected your relationship with that person?
  • Now write down a few sentences that describe your experiences and feelings to any of these questions.

Part Two:
Look back on your social media posts of the last six months and ask yourself the following questions:

  • If a stranger saw the posts you just looked at, what would they think about you?
  • What do you want people to think about you and your life?
  • How accurately do your online posts and interactions reflect what’s going on in your life?
  • Do you take steps to protect your online privacy? How important is privacy to you?
  • Is the way you handle conflict online similar to the way you handle conflict in real life? Are you proud of how you conduct yourself in either or both contexts?

Bringing Your Reflection into the Classroom

Now take a step back and remember that the majority of young people are extremely skeptical about anything we tell them regarding how to use social media. We have to show them that we are doing the work we are asking them to do. We have to show them that we acknowledge we are affected by social media too. So no matter what you teach — math, social studies, Spanish, language arts, or computer coding — sit down with your students and say something along the lines of:

I know I’m your math teacher, so technically my responsibility is to teach you math, but I also want the time we spend together to be good. And I know that I can be the best math teacher in the world, but if something comes through your phone that upsets you, you’re going to have a really hard time focusing on what I’m teaching you. I’ve been thinking about the technology rules we have in the school and in the class. I want to take a few minutes of our class time to dig a little deeper because I think it’s more than me nagging you to put away your phones and not being mean to someone. So we’re going to take 15 minutes to answer a few questions and then have a discussion. This doesn’t have to be the only time we talk about this. If what we do seems like a good use of time, let me know.

You can do the same exercises above and then have a discussion. Share some of your own insights — which shows them that you don’t think you’re above these issues because you’re an adult. Your goal is to approach the topic from a place of curiosity instead of blame and judgment. From there, you can fine-tune your class agreements about how social media is used in and outside of class.

Remember what you know: When young people feel seen, heard, and respected, they will want to engage. When they see that you hold each of them to high standards and you implement those standards fairly, they engage. When we admit adults’ hypocrisy, they engage. And when they are given a voice to express their own experiences and opinions, they will hold themselves to higher standards then we can ever impose.

When to Worry About Your Teen & Social Media

Is social media damaging your teen? Here’s what to watch for 

Keeping your teenager out of the social media world is impossible. Whether we like it or not, our kids are growing up in a digital era — and although that creates major opportunities, it also comes with some pretty big risks. We saw this firsthand when we asked a group of tweens and teens to give up their phones and social media for a week; it was as though we’d asked them to part with a limb.

Even Barack Obama agreed that the internet can be both a “blessing and a curse” during an interview with Prince Harry aired as a BBC podcast on December 27. “On the internet, everything is simplified,” he said. “And when you meet people face-to-face, it turns out they’re complicated. There may be somebody who you think is diametrically opposed to you when it comes to their political views, but you root for the same sports team.” Obama may have been talking about complex political issues, but his words apply just as much to teenagers and social media.

A recent study of more than 10,000 sixth- to 12-grade girls carried out by nonprofit organization Ruling Our Experiences found that high school girls spend an average of six hours a day on social media. And the effect of too much logged-on time is clear. The study found kids who spend eight hours or more on technology per day are five times more likely to be sad or depressed. Adding to the pressure is that 2 out of 3 high school girls report being asked to send a revealing photo to another person, and most of them report that most students their age send sexually explicit texts and photos to each other.

“The more typical and sometimes subtle challenges of adolescence are even more amplified with social media and can be more damaging to a girl’s sense of self,” says Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, a licensed counselor, founder of Ruling Our Experiences and author of Girls Without Limits: Helping Girls Achieve Healthy Relationships, Academic Success and Interpersonal Strength. “During the teen years, girls experience drops in confidence and self-esteem, have difficulty navigating friendships and relationships and often come to dislike their body and appearance. These inherent insecurities of adolescence are exacerbated with the overlay of social media, with the constant comparison of self to others. When every aspect of a girl’s life is on display to be viewed, dissected and judged, her self-concept can be negatively impacted and her decision-making altered to gain the approval — the likes — of her peers.”

The Ruling Our Experiences study put the spotlight on girls, and it’s worth noting there’s a marked gender divide when it comes to social media use and its repercussions. Another study, carried out by Common Sense Media, found that girls straight-up use social media more than boys and are also more likely to experience negative consequences. Half the girls polled admitted that content posted online often makes them worry about their appearance or social status, while just a quarter of the boys said the same. An earlier study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project came to similar conclusions: A third of 12- to 13-year-old girls who used social media believed their peers were mostly unkind to each other online, while only 9 percent of the boys agreed.

Of course, these differences don’t mean we shouldn’t have concerns about boys and the impact of digital overload or online bullying. In fact, other studies have shown that boys and girls can be equally damaged by social media.

With all these statistics — plus the look of horror on a kid’s face when they’re separated from their digital device — it’s no wonder parents are concerned about their kids’ online lives. So why aren’t we doing more about it? The Ruling Our Experiences study found that 60 percent of girls report that their parents “rarely or never” monitor their use of technology. Experts recognize it can be difficult to know how to help our teens cope with the pressures of social media, but there are red flags we can look out for that may indicate it’s time to intervene.

According to Tom Kersting, licensed psychotherapist, family counselor, author and educator, the most common warning signs of an unhealthy relationship with social media include: sleep deprivation, anxiety and/or depression, lack of interest in anything not screen-related, constant fighting and arguing about screen time and believing you can’t live without your devices.

Hinkelman adds that signs of digital distress include withdrawal from activities a teen typically enjoyed, changes in eating or sleeping, increased levels of sadness or crying and persistent anxiousness and isolation. “Social isolation is a key element of depression, and excessive use of technology can equate to less in-person connections with others,” she says.

It’s also important for parents to recognize just how important social media is to this age group. Yes, Snapchat does matter. “When we minimize the importance that social media plays in the lives of girls, we effectively make ourselves less relevant and more out of touch,” says Hinkelman. “However, right now, the strategies that we see many parents implementing are to tell girls to stay off of social media, to limit access to their phones and to say unhelpful things like, ‘If it is making you that upset, just put it away’ or ‘Why do you even try to be friends with those girls if they are so mean?'”

A more productive approach is to help kids develop effective and supportive relationships both via technology and IRL. We need to teach our teens how to trust their intuition, set boundaries, value their own voice and opinion and deal with pressure and coercion. “These are the skills they need for success in life,” says Hinkelman.

That said, if you have concerns your teen is being bullied online, you need to pull out all the stops, says Kersting. “Keep your teen off social media, period,” he says. That means don’t let your teen use technology in their bedroom, have mandatory family conversation every night, and don’t let your teen go to school with their phone until the problem has been resolved. The most important thing is for teens to feel — and be — safe, online and in the real world alike.

Parents can get more advice on helping their teens stay safe online at ConnectSafely.

How Tech Experts Monitor Their Teens on Social Media

The Wall Street Journal

How can parents keep up with smartphones? Tech executives take various approaches to managing their children’s social-media use

While investor protests about smartphones’ harmful social effects began making headlines only recently, Silicon Valley parents have struggled with the issue for a long time.

Tech executives with children share many of the same concerns other parents have about tweens’ and teens’ social-media use—that it will disrupt sleep, homework or face-to-face socializing, or expose their children to bullies or predators.

Those who are experts on the internet and information security also wonder: What hidden security threats lurk in the latest social-media app? Which of many possible paths might hackers take to invade their children’s privacy?

The routes tech-savvy executives choose to protect their tweens and teens online vary, from close monitoring to guiding them in managing the hazards themselves.

Teaching Decision-Making

Steven Aldrich foresees his 16-year-old son Jackson constantly surrounded by apps and devices designed to grab his attention.

Mr. Aldrich, chief product officer at GoDaddy Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz., provider of internet domains and websites to businesses, and his wife, Allison, shun the parental-control apps and filters with which some parents control their children’s internet and social-media use. “No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment,” Mr. Aldrich says. “The kids have to learn to live in a world where that’s the reality.” Instead, he and his wife “focus on, how do we create an environment where Jackson has the chance to learn judgment, by participating in setting limits and creating boundaries for himself.”

Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy's chief product officer, says ‘No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment.’
Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy’s chief product officer, says ‘No amount of monitoring is going to teach responsibility or judgment.’ PHOTO: GODADDY

They started early, letting Jackson decide as a child, with parental coaching, how much candy to eat from the pantry. This has evolved to teaching him to finish a homework assignment before checking social media. Mrs. Aldrich sometimes asks Jackson to let her know when he takes breaks from homework, Jackson says, making him aware of whether he’s diverting his attention too often.

They’re helping him learn time management, such as scheduling homework, sports practice, dinner and sleep in advance so that social media doesn’t crowd them out. “We’ve seen it start to pay off in how he prepares for tests or projects,” Mr. Aldrich says.

He and his wife also encourage Jackson to think about everything he posts as part of his permanent personal brand, Mr. Aldrich says, asking him: “Think about what you might have chosen if you’d gotten a tattoo when you were 3? What if you got a Barney tattoo, and now you’re in middle school? Would you want to be walking around with a Barney tattoo?’”

They’ve used examples from Snapchat of mistakes other teens made in oversharing, and asked Jackson to imagine how the sender felt afterward.

Jackson, who uses Snapchat and Instagram and also has a YouTube channel of his own about videogames and soccer, says he has learned to ask himself before posting anything to consider how it might affect his image. “Would I want the principal, a future employer, my teachers to see this?” he says. “Once you post something, it will be out there forever.”

Keeping a Watchful Eye

The powerful allure social media holds for teens has led Michelle Dennedy to take a hands-on approach to monitoring its use by her two daughters, 11 and 16. “Once you hand that phone to your child, that is the beginning of a million micro-decisions for you as a parent, and for the child,” says Ms. Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif., networking company.

 

She checks privacy settings every six months on all the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones. If social media distracts them from homework, “the Wi-Fi goes off and the books come out,” Ms. Dennedy says.

She teaches them how marketers use free apps to get personal information. “Do you know the difference between free and paid music?” she recently asked her younger daughter. “What do you think an advertiser would want to know about 11-year-old kids?”

She refrains from making judgments about teens’ social-media habits. “Apparently if you don’t respond with a selfie fast enough, people get upset. I respect their culture. I can’t just say, ‘That’s dumb, these people are ridiculous,’ and walk away,” Ms. Dennedy says. Instead, she asks, “What is this doing to your self-esteem?’ And I have to be quiet and listen. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

She also requires her daughters to get permission before downloading apps. “Sometimes they’ll send me an app that is just ridiculous. My older daughter asked for a celebrity app, with a lot of pictures of body parts,” Ms. Dennedy says. “ I asked her, ‘Write me a memo about what this will do to improve your life, and then we’ll have a conversation.’ She wrote the memo, tongue-in-cheek, with a lot of eye-rolling, saying, ‘I like the Kardashians because they annoy my mom.’ She still didn’t get the app.”

Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems, checks privacy settings every six months on the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones.
Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at Cisco Systems, checks privacy settings every six months on the apps she and her daughters use on their smartphones. PHOTO: CISCO

She steps in when social media ignites too much teen drama. “One problem for my older daughter a couple of years ago was when friends were using FaceTime while doing homework,” she says. “Walking into her room, I’d see another student talking about how stressed out she was, how hopeless it was, how awful parents were to force them to get good grades.

“I had a long conversation with my daughter later: I know you want to help your friends, but some of these students may need professional help. And I ask her, is this helping you get the grades you could get and want to get?”

She encouraged her daughter to talk with her friend and tell her: “I’m worried that this conversation isn’t productive. What can we do about this?” Or, “My weirdo mother is going to call your weirdo mother. Maybe we should stop.” Ms. Dennedy does sometimes call other parents in such situations. “That can be an awkward conversation, but it’s one you have to try to have.”

Monitoring Closely

Eight-year-old Jack Arkin’s online activity so far is limited to watching children’s videos on YouTube and sending email. But his father, Brad, who is chief security officer for Adobe, the San Jose, Calif., cloud-software company, has already begun shaping his attitude toward social media.

Adobe’s chief security officer Brad Arkin says, ‘I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.’
Adobe’s chief security officer Brad Arkin says, ‘I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.’ PHOTO:ADOBE

Mr. Arkin and his wife, Carolyn, closely monitor everything Jack does online. They restrict screen time for Jack to 30 to 60 minutes on most days. They read Jack’s emails over his shoulder and stream his children’s videos on the family TV, setting YouTube on restricted mode and keeping an eye on content. “He gets zero privacy and zero expectations of privacy,” Mr. Arkin says.

Jack will probably get his first phone next year, but it will be an old-fashioned flip phone, so he and his parents can call or send texts while he’s walking to and from school.

Mr. Arkin doesn’t plan to rely on parental controls when Jack, and his two younger brothers, ages 6 and 3, eventually get smartphones. “At my day job as a security guy, I know that software controls can be circumvented by determined adversaries,” he says. Instead, “I try to teach my kids to understand the tech concepts behind what they’re doing.”

That includes the hidden hazards of social media: “If you post a photo, people can figure out where the picture was taken, and at what time,” Mr. Arkin tells his son. “When you think about posting something, the questions are, ‘What do you hope to achieve by publishing it? Why does this need to be viewable to the world?’”

“I’m doing my best,” Mr. Arkin says, “to make my kids savvy but not over-fearful.”

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

Teen Girls And Social Media: A Story Of ‘Secret Lives’ And Misogyny

NPR

Nancy Jo Sales interviewed more than 200 teenage girls about their social media and Internet habits while researching her book American Girls.

Knopf

Social media and dating apps are putting unprecedented pressures on America’s teen girls, author Nancy Jo Sales says. Her new book, American Girls, opens with a story about one 13-year-old who received an Instagram request for “noodz” [nude photos] from a boy she didn’t know very well.

“When I was a girl and the things that would come up in your life that were difficult or troubling or whatever — there was always a Judy Blume book for it,” Sales tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. But, Sales says, when it comes to responding to an out-of-the-blue solicitation for naked images, “there’s no Judy Blume book for that. There’s nothing for them to turn to, to know, like, ‘How do I react to this?’ ”

In the 2 1/2 years she spent researching her book, Sales interviewed more than 200 teenage girls around the country about their social media and Internet usage. She says girls face enormous pressures to post “hot” or sexualized photos of themselves online, and she adds that this pressure can make the Internet an unwelcoming environment.

“I think a lot of people are not aware of how the atmosphere has really changed in social situations … in terms of how the girls are treated and how the boys behave,” Sales says. “This is a kind of sexism and misogyny being played out in real time in this really extreme way.”


Interview Highlights

American Girls

On how males’ and females’ pictures differ on Tinder

I talked to an 18-year-old girl who is talking about looking at Tinder with her older brother and … she said she was struck by the way in which the boys and men’s pictures were very different than the girls’. Guys tend to have a picture like, I don’t know, they’re standing on a mountain looking like they’ve climbed the mountain, or they’re holding a big fish or they’re doing something manly, or in their car. … But the girls’ pictures … tend to be very different; they tend to be a lot more sexualized.

This is a pressure on social media that goes back, for women and girls, a long time. … I trace the origins back to a site called “Hot or Not” which came out in 2000. … The whole idea of “hotness” has become such a factor in the lives of American girls, unfortunately, because according to many, many studies, including a really landmark report by the American Psychological Association in 2007, this has wide-ranging ramifications for girls’ health and well-being, including studies that link this pressure to sexualize on all kinds of things like rising anxiety, depression, cutting, eating disorders. It’s a thing that I don’t think that boys have to deal with as much.

On boys asking girls for nude photos

I think the fact that so often we’re talking about nudes and sexting is because kids are watching porn. There’s multiple studies that say that they are. We know that they are. They’re curious. They’re going through puberty. They’re watching porn. And yet, nobody really talks about it or talks about the fact that it has an effect on how they behave and what they think about sex and sexuality and how they deal with each other. And there’s really no guidelines for girls about how to react to all of this. …

Some 13-year-old girls in Florida and New Jersey both told me that if they didn’t [send photos] they had been threatened with boys sending rumors about them, sending around a picture that actually wasn’t them and saying it was them. I mean, there’s a kind of thing in adult life that we know about called revenge porn, and that happens among kids as well, unfortunately.

It’s very risky for girls to send nudes because when they do, if they chose to, those photos are not private. They can be shared and very often they are shared. I heard story after story of situations where girls had pictures of themselves sent around to groups of people. It has become such a normal thing to them.

On “slut pages”

A “slut page” is when someone, typically a boy, not 100 percent of the time, but mostly a boy or boys, will collect nude photos of girls in their school or in the area’s schools and post them on a page. I’ve seen them on Facebook or Instagram. It looks like an amateur pornography site — it is an amateur pornography site, I would say — and it’s underage girls and pictures that are sent to someone, very often that they think won’t share them but who does. It’s a nonconsensual sharing of these pictures, and sometimes without their knowledge.

I’ve talked to girls who found out about it through text. Suddenly their phone blows up and they find out, “Oh my god, you’re on this page.” I think it’s very threatening because it’s abuse of a certain kind and it’s harassment, and it’s very often not punished in any way, or even known by adults.

On how porn is affecting sex

It was through talking to girls that I started thinking about porn, and they really enlightened me about the effect that porn was having on their lives, because they would start describing to me interactions that they had with boys. For example, “Send me nudes,” or a boy sending a nude picture of himself. … These things that they’re describing sound violent to me. They say, “[Boys] expect this, and they expect that, and they want you to do this, and they want you to do that.” And these things, they’re all the hallmarks of the most popular online porn.

There’s different things that are sort of popularized in porn. Pornographers have found that they get more traffic, more clicks, more views, whatever, the more extreme that it is. That seems to be the trend that has happened in porn in the last decade or so, right? So there are certain acts or moves or behaviors, whatever, which are filtering their way into the sexual encounters of teenage girls and boys.