June 27, 2024

New Legislation: Students need help handling the pressure of social media

Be sure to check out the suggested Huddle question at the bottom of this article to discuss this important topic with your students in class, if you feel it is appropriate.

Recent research shows that students view social media algorithms as reflections of themselves. Their personalized “for you” pages connect them to content aligned with their hobbies and current trends, reflecting their personalities, values, and interests. However, these algorithms can also become addictive, leading to stress due to endless scrolling through an infinite content stream.

In response, New York has enacted groundbreaking legislation aimed at banning these addictive algorithms to reduce student stress and dependency online. The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act prohibits social media platforms from using recommendation algorithms for users under 18. Complementing this, the New York Child Data Protection Act restricts the collection of minors’ personal data without consent.

Let’s explore these bills more and how educators can empower students to handle the pressure of algorithms. 

The two-part NY bill and addictive social media algorithms 

Last week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed two bills aimed at protecting students online: the SAFE for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act. The SAFE for Kids Act requires parental consent for social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to use recommendation algorithms for users under 18. It also prohibits these platforms from sending notifications to minors between midnight and 6 am without parental consent, with penalties of up to $5000 per violation for non-compliance.

According to sponsors of the SAFE for Kids Act, its purpose is to safeguard children’s mental health from addictive social media feeds and prevent disrupted sleep caused by nighttime social media use. Implementation of the law will begin once regulations are finalized, with social media companies given 180 days to comply. The New York Child Data Protection Act complements the SAFE for Kids Act by limiting data collection on minors without consent and prohibiting the sale of this information. However, it does not mandate age verification. This act will take effect in one year.

While specific to New York, these laws underscore the pervasive role of algorithms in students’ lives, prompting educators outside the state to seek alternative strategies to manage their impact on social media. And as one TSI Student Ambassador shared with us, “The recommended posts I get in my feed are always tailored to my likes, and my sense of humor, and it makes my social media experience more fun and connected.” With social media platforms evolving through personalized algorithms, educators worldwide have a unique opportunity to equip students with essential tools to navigate online pressures effectively. By promoting strategies that encourage critical thinking and responsible engagement, educators can empower students to navigate social media with confidence.

TSI’s Take: Equipping students with strategies for handling the pressure

The legislation in New York may inspire other states to take on similar laws protecting students from addictive algorithms. In the meantime, educators can equip students with tools to handle the pressure they may face online when seeing content on their feeds. Plus, when students are equipped to handle the pressure of algorithms, they can navigate social media more positively and can expect less stress and anxiety

Here are strategies to empower students to manage algorithms and handle pressure from recommendation-based feeds proactively:

  • Scroll through the “following” feed instead of the “for you” feed: The “for you” and explore pages on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, which offer limitless content tailored to students’ specific interests and interactions. By opting to view their “following” feed instead, students can avoid endless scrolling and focus on a more manageable selection of posts. This also helps them stay updated on posts from friends and people they follow.
  • Limit scrolling by looking at specific hashtags or content: Instead of scrolling through their personalized feed, which has the potential to go on forever, students can reduce their scrolling time by explicitly searching for specific content or hashtags. This reduces the amount of time they spend scrolling through random posts. 
  • Set your feed to chronological order: Some apps give users the option to change their feed from recommended to chronological or reverse chronological order, which is what the New York bill requires. Students can set their feeds to reverse chronological order and see content based on how recently it was posted instead of how much it fits into their personalized feed. This reduces how much content they see and how much scrolling they do because it doesn’t use their data to make personal recommendations. 

Students face daily pressure to navigate social media and tech in positive, high-character ways. To learn more about equipping students to navigate social media more positively and stress-free, keep an eye out for The Social Institute’s upcoming Huddle Up on The Anxious Generation” Unpacked

#WinAtSocial Huddle Question

Huddle with your students
How do you think social media algorithms, like the ones on TikTok or Instagram, affect your daily life? What are some ways we can use social media in a fun and healthy way without getting too stressed or spending too much time online?

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.