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Navigating Social Media Safely with Students

Navigating Social Media Safely with Students

Social Media Safety

As the digital world becomes increasingly entwined with our children's lives, understanding and addressing its impact is critical to ensuring students are safe online. 

The 2021 Health Youth Survey shows 42% of Washington’s students report having three or more hours of screen time per day. The US Surgeon General reports that young people spending more than three hours daily on social media face double the risk of poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Below are resources families can use to help keep their students safe online. 

Strategies to Keep Students Safe 

Here are some strategies from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions (OSPI) that parents and families can take to keep students safe.  

  • Make sure online privacy settings are set to the most secure level.
  • Talk with students about how social media makes them feel. Explain that social media platforms are designed to be addictive. Help students determine what content is real and what content is questionable, and empower them to make informed choices. There’s great tips in conversation starters!
  • Help students report cyberbullying and other harmful content, and talk to them about why it’s important for them not to spread it themselves.
  • Encourage students and families to create a family media plan that includes engagement in both positive uses of social media and tech-free activities.
  • Set a good example by modeling responsible social media use.

Conversation Starters

Here are some questions from OSPI that parents and families can use to start a conversation with your student about social media. 

  • What did you see on social media this week? What do you think those posts meant?
  • How does social media make you feel? Is it more positive, negative, or a mix of both?
  • How much information about you is available on the social media platforms you use? Are we both comfortable with the information and images that are available to strangers?
  • Do you feel that your social media use interferes with your schoolwork, extracurricular activities, or friendships?
  • How can you tell when you might need a break from social media?
  • What are some things you can do to help you have a positive experience when using social media and resist the pressure to always be connected?

Additional Resources

Here are additional resources to help you keep students safe online. 

  • Parent Guides: Nonprofit organization Connect Safely provides guidebooks on apps, services and platforms popular with children and teens.
  • Family Media Plan: This resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guides families through creating a media plan.
  • National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health: This organization provides evidence-based education to support the mental health of youth as they navigate social media.
  • The SIFT Method: This resource provides steps that students can practice when encountering questionable content and interacting with misinformation online.
  • The Family Online Safety Institute: This is an international non-profit organization working to make the online world safer for kids and their families by providing a hub of resources and articles.

Celebrating Digital Citizenship Week

October 16-20 is Digital Citizenship Week. Common Sense Education provides digital citizenship resources and activity calendars for students and families. This is a great way to help students build healthy habits with media and tech. Check out the activity calendar by grade level.