Social Media and Teens
Tali Raviv, PhD
NCS3 Co-PI and Midwest Regional Site Co-Director
If you are a parent, teacher, or interact with teens in any capacity, you have probably been confused, concerned, and conflicted as you watch the teens in front of you sink into the abyss of social media. Last month, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, an advocate for improving the mental health of young people, declared that 13 (the current age of access for most social media apps) is too young for social media. He made these comments based in part on new and emerging research about the effect of social media use on the developing brain.
Schools and districts grapple with the ramifications of social media on their students and campuses. Concerns range from online bullying to the role of schools in monitoring social media use (or mis-use) of their students and staff. Seattle Public Schools has even sued several social media companies, alleging that these companies have knowingly created addictive products that have worsened students’ mental health.
Regardless of where you fall in this debate, this technology is part of our society and likely to remain so. Experts also point out that, when used responsibly, social media can convey some benefits. For example, it can be a venue for learning about and engaging with new perspectives and viewpoints. Some students, including LGBTQ+ students, may find resources and affirming spaces to explore their identities in communities where in-person options are less available.
So how can schools help young people and families navigate these complicated issues? One strategy is by offering digital literacy instruction to help students evaluate, understand, and navigate information online, such as these lessons on digital citizenship created by Common Sense Education. In addition, schools can enhance caregiver awareness by providing them with resources to promote their children’s healthy social media use, like this helpful guide created by New York City Department of Education in partnership with Common Sense Education. Districts should also frequently re-visit their policies surrounding social media use to ensure that they are up-to-date and comprehensive amid this rapidly changing landscape. This type of education and guidance is becoming increasingly critical. As the parent of a teen and a tween, I will take all the help I can get!