March 29, 2024

Students use their mics for good to help others use social media and tech in healthy, happy ways

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.

With 7 in 10 students saying that the benefits of social media and technology outweigh the harms, students nationwide are taking an active role in ensuring that their positive experiences extend to others. College student Caroline Koziol and high school students in Texas are setting examples of how to do just that. They are using their social media and tech skills, knowledge, and experiences to empower others to use their devices in positive ways.  

Students in Texas are using their tech knowledge to help those in need. In Texarkana, high schoolers are joining a “Seniors Serving Seniors” technology class to help senior adults improve their technology skills. These classes, set to start in April 2024, will show seniors many device skills, such as taking photos, emailing, and even how to avoid fraud online. 

Another example is Caroline Koziol, who filed a lawsuit against big social media platforms to help improve social media in general and help people affected by harmful content on apps. She has also been speaking up about her experiences with social media and “hopes her speaking out can make a difference for those who might be struggling.” 

Whether they’re taking nationwide action or contributing to their local community, students everywhere are leveraging their social media and tech knowledge for good. Though student voices are extremely powerful, they also can be overlooked or taken lightly when people assume that since they are young, they have nothing important to say – which couldn’t be further from the truth! That’s why educators play a critical role in boosting student confidence to speak up about issues they care about. When educators create a supportive environment that values student opinions and encourages critical thinking, it helps students feel confident in identifying important problems and speaking out about them. 

A college student addresses social media addiction and online well-being

College student Caroline Koziol has taken a courageous stance against social media’s potentially harmful effects on young people while also highlighting how students can navigate social media positively. 

Koziol joined hundreds of other plaintiffs and filed a lawsuit against social media platforms, alleging the apps are designed to “hook users and can encourage addictive behavior in young people.” Koziol has also spoken up about her own experiences with social media and how it affected her growing up. While the content on her feeds started as funny, lighthearted videos, they soon turned into exercise routines and diet culture content, which contributed to her struggle with negative body image and disordered eating. 

Koziol and others are not pushing for getting rid of social media altogether— instead, they want to change how it works to protect others better. “To build in features that allow me to say ‘I don’t really want to see these things. I don’t want a continuous feed.’ I’m not saying to get rid of those things but allow the user the control,” Jessica Carroll, an attorney with Motley Rice, said. Koziol and her family also “urge people not to suffer in silence, and to reach out for help” if they need it.

Koziol hopes that by using her mic for good, she can make a difference for those who are struggling and hold social media platforms accountable. Educators can use Koziol’s story as an example of what students can accomplish when they feel passionate and supported. 

Student-run tech program empowers older adults

In a different part of the country, students like Caroline Koziol are also using their tech experiences to create positive change for those in need. Beginning in April, high school students in Texas will volunteer their time for the “Seniors Serving Seniors” program. This program involves seniors in high school teaching senior citizens essential technology skills, such as how to operate their devices, order medication or groceries online, and avoid internet fraud and scams. As they grew up with tech, students often know best when it comes to tech, and this program is a great opportunity for students to coach up and share their expertise with seniors, adults, and educators alike. 

Angela Glass was “inspired to start the program” last year when she saw her teenage daughter helping her grandfather with something on his phone. Glass also saw the need for this kind of program in her work as a benefits counselor at Area Agencies on Aging. This agency addresses the needs and concerns of older persons.” Everything is going online now. There are times when seniors need to fill out an application online, and they worry about it. Some of them don’t even have an email address,” Glass said.

Students who participate in the program will not only be able to earn community service hours but also gain valuable teaching and communication skills while also connecting with positive role models in their community. The “Seniors Serving Seniors” program is just one way in which students can use their technology expertise for good— but it’s also a wonderful example of the impact students can have on society when they’re given opportunities in school to make a difference. 

TSI’s Take

From Caroline Koziol’s advocacy to the student volunteers in the “Seniors Serving Seniors” program, it is extremely clear that student voices are some of the most powerful in the world, especially regarding social media and tech. At The Social Institute, we believe that when educators hear students’ experiences and opinions, students have the potential to become catalysts for positive change in their communities and beyond. Through our Student Ambassador Program, student voices take center stage and help shape our content. 

Empowered by inclusive and relevant educational content like #WinAtSocial Lessons, students can leverage their voices to advocate for causes they believe in, shape policies that impact their peers, and drive meaningful dialogue on pressing issues.

Empower students to gain the confidence and skills needed to create real-world impact with these tips:

  • Identify a cause you care about: Encourage students to reflect on their passions and values to identify a cause they care about deeply. Whether environmental sustainability, mental health awareness, or social justice issues, finding a cause that resonates personally can fuel their motivation to make a positive impact.
  • Leverage social media platforms: Guide students in leveraging the power of social media platforms to raise awareness and mobilize support for their chosen cause. Teach them how to craft compelling messages, create engaging content, and utilize hashtags effectively to amplify their message and reach a wider audience online.
  • Collaborate with local organizations: Encourage students to collaborate with local organizations or community groups working on issues related to something they care about. Whether volunteering at a local shelter, organizing a fundraising event, or participating in advocacy campaigns, hands-on involvement can deepen their understanding of the issue and make a tangible difference in their community. For example, The Social Institute’s Student Ambassador Program allows students to empower other students worldwide to use social media and technology for good

Empowering students to use their social media and tech knowledge for good fosters a sense of agency and civic responsibility and creates valuable modern life skills, like empathy, that will serve them well beyond the classroom. For more on this topic, check out # WinAtSocial’s Lesson, Using social media to tackle some of our generation’s biggest challenges that empower students to advocate for causes they care about on social media. 

#WinAtSocial Huddle Question

Huddle with your students
Considering Caroline Koziol’s advocacy and the “Seniors Serving Seniors” program, if you could create change for any cause, which cause would you choose? How would you use social media and tech to do it?

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.