September 29, 2023

Key insights from Devorah Heitner: Empowering and equipping students to navigate social media positively rather than scaring and restricting

With new privacy laws, social media bans, and platforms such as TikTok and X changing every day, concerns about the impact of social media on students continue to grow among educators. While the temptation to restrict social media exists, a new book by Dr. Devorah Heitner reveals that teaching online safety to students is much more effective than restricting it altogether. 

Amid calls for restrictions and bans, Dr. Heitner offers a refreshing perspective. Her latest book,Growing Up in Public: Coming of Age in a Digital World,” highlights the need for educators to empower students with the skills to navigate social media responsibly. 

We’re exploring key insights from Heitner’s new book, and how educators play a vital role in fostering responsible online behavior. Let’s dive in! 

The Importance of Teaching Online Safety to Students

As of 2022, teen students are spending an average of 8.4 hours online each day. As this number continues to rise, Dr. Heitner’s book challenges the negative narrative surrounding social media and its impact on students.

She says, “I don’t think anyone should spend 20 hours a day on TikTok,” but the discourse around social media today is “very absolute and judgmental.” 

While acknowledging concerns about the mental health implications of excessive screen time, Heitner emphasizes that social media is not the sole culprit. 

She advocates for the same positive and balanced approach that The Social Institute believes in: Equipping students with the knowledge and tools to make informed choices online. 

One powerful point Heitner raises is the potential harm of outright bans or excessive monitoring. In fact, one study discovered that students with lower access to social media had lower self-esteem than other students who used it more regularly. 

Through our huddles with students, it’s clear that for students, social media is being social. It is a place for students to find a community, keep up with trends, and form relationships, and it’s up to us to equip students with the tools to navigate social media and their world positively. 

TSI’s Take

Educators hold the power to shape students’ online behavior. As of 2023, 4.9 billion people across the globe are using social media, a number that grew exponentially over the past 10 years. Between influencers, new marketing tools, and the rise of social media as a news source, it is no secret that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X are ever-evolving, and we have to adapt to prepare students for what they may encounter online.  

To equip students with the skills to make positive, responsible decisions online, we encourage students to live up to the Seven Social Standards. Standards are different from rules in that they are expectations of ongoing behaviors that a group of people agree to and expect of each other. In short, standards are a way to live, not just behave. When we empower students to live up to high standards as they navigate their online worlds, we equip them with the modern life skills to make high-character decisions online and offline. Proactively empower your own students to live up to these standards to fuel their health, happiness, and success: 

  • Play To Your Core: Reflect your values, character, and interests in your actions online.
  • Protect Your Privacy Like You’re Famous: Stay in control of your personal information, like location, email address, and phone numbers, and respect the privacy boundaries of others.
  • Strike A Balance: Balance your time and attention on tech with the people around you.
  • Cyberback: In a world of cyberbullying, have each others’ backs by supporting one another online.
  • Find Your Influencers: Surround yourself with positive influencers who support you and find credible sources to avoid misinformation.
  • Use Your Mic For Good: Use social media as a microphone to create meaningful change. 

Devorah Heitner’s insights remind us that there are two sides to social media’s story and that a shift from strict restrictions and bans to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the digital age will prepare students better for their futures that will undoubtedly include social media and technology. 

Interested in teaching your students how to live up to these standards through collaborative learning? Request a demo of #WinAtSocial today to learn more about our student-respected, gamified, peer-to-peer technology.

Always stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest trends online by subscribing to our newsletter where we talk about trending tech and social media news weekly! In the meantime, check out our Instagram and TikTok @thesocialinst for tips, trends, and highlights when it comes to social media.

The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in empowering students by understanding students. Through #WinAtSocial, our gamified, peer-to-peer learning platform, we equip students, educators, and families to navigate their social world – in the classroom and beyond, online and offline – in healthy, high-character ways. Our unique, student-respected approach empowers and equips, rather than scares and restricts. We incorporate timely topics about social media, tech use, and current events that are impacting student well-being and learning. #WinAtSocial Lessons teach life skills for the modern day, capture student voice, and provide school leaders with actionable insights. Through these insights, students play an essential role in school efforts to support their own health, happiness, and future success as we enable high-impact teaching, meaningful family conversations, and a healthy school culture.