Schools and Social Media: Protecting Our StudentsHow can we avoid the pitfalls of social media while keeping students engaged?
It’s no secret there are inherent dangers to using social media. As Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, puts it, “Social media—particularly Instagram, which displaces other forms of interaction among teens, puts the size of their friend group on public display, and subjects their physical appearance to the hard metrics of likes and comment counts—takes the worst parts of middle school and glossy women’s magazines and intensifies them.”
In a Wall Street Journal article discussing the finding of Facebook’s own research it states they found that “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.” This isn’t surprising considering that constant comparing of one’s self to others leads to overthinking, depression, and low self-esteem. In a survey of 98 students “nearly 90% said social media negatively affected their mental health.” “For some people it might be tempting to dismiss this as teen girls being sad,” said Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. But “we’re looking at clinical-level depression that requires treatment. We’re talking about self harm that lands people in the ER.”
One study found that increased activity on Facebook was related not only to symtpoms of low self-esteem, but also to narcissism. Another study found that receiving “likes” on social media activate the same circuits in the teenage brain activated by eating chocolate or winning money. According to yet another article, “Positive reinforcement comes when a teen posts something online and is met with likes, shares, and positive comments from their circle of peers. The rush of dopamine that occurs with this positive feedback creates a ‘high.’ Frequent use of social media actually rewires the developing teen brain to constantly seek out immediate gratification. Consequently, it can lead to other addictive behaviors.” In addition, sites like YouTube and TikTok that have faced criticism for encouraging or displaying dangerous pranks and other violent actions. From anxiety and depression to addiction to dangerous behavior, research has repeatedly shown social media is harmful to youth.
What about schools?
Despite the mounting evidence that social media is harming today’s youth, schools regularly use social media in an attempt to connect with their student body and parents, often with less than ideal results. As we’ve interacted with administrators, there has been a common theme among the problems they face:
- Monitoring likes and comments, which can become inappropriate and sometimes hostile.
- School social pages becoming lost among all other feeds, meaning the information is not reaching the audience.
- Inappropriate and falsely labeled Instagram accounts that schools have no control over.
- Lack of diversity, with only certain clubs or sports being represented.
Most worrisome, though, is the far-too-often occurrence of a student’s personal information being shared by a school on their social media feeds. The personal experiences we’ve heard usually go something like this: To celebrate a cheerleader’s birthday a coach at the school posts a “Happy birthday” on the school social feed, along with her picture, her grade, and her personal social media handles. Suddenly this teenage girl has stalkers on her social accounts because they know her age, her birthday, what she looks like, and where to find her online presence. What started as a thoughtful gesture ends as a parent’s nightmare.
It turns out the picture of social media isn’t so rosy for teenagers OR schools. But where do we go from here? How do we change this growing trend of schools relying on social media and endangering students?
How SchoolBinder can help
We’re passionate about keeping students safe, from the specific design of our app to the education we offer, because we firmly believe, as Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So how do we protect students and yet allow them to communicate and engage in their preferred methods? By providing a platform that is similar and yet so different, giving them a healthier alternative so that schools don’t need to encourage them to spend time on social media to stay informed. Our social feed is built without likes and comments, removing the potential for hurtful or inappropriate comments and the obsessive focus on receiving likes for a post. We allow moderated student contribution and encourage all groups, clubs, and sports to share their successes and achievements (hello diversity!), because a feed created by the students will be more engaging for the students.
We also work with schools educating students, faculty and parents on the benefits and dangers of social media along with giving parents tools and training on how to provide oversight for their children. In addition, we’re educating school faculty on what should and should not be shared online to ensure that all PII (Personal Identifiable Information) stays private.
It’s time to take back control of the content and messaging of your school and help protect your students. Together, we can.
Request a demo to see our social feed in action.