September 29, 2023

The power of student voice: Teen girls share their top tips when it comes to navigating social media and what educators need to know

Did you know that as of 2023, about 39% of teens say their experiences on social media are better than parents think, and 27% say their experiences are worse? As students navigate the complex landscape of social media, it’s important for educators to listen to what students are saying and empathize with how they feel when guiding them through their social experiences, both online and offline.

At The Social Institute, we recognize the importance of bringing students into the conversation when empowering them to navigate social media and tech in positive ways. To shine a light on the students’ online experiences, the New York Times turned to the voices of teenage girls who participated in programs by Girls Leadership, a nonprofit dedicated to building confidence and promoting responsible social media use among adolescents. 

These students gave great tips for students and adults alike on what they should know about social media use. From ways to manage your screen time to playing to your core online, these teens have the inside scoop on all things social media. Here is what you need to know: 

Tips from students, For students:

With new platforms, tech updates, and a never-ending number of posts reaching students each day, social media is hard to keep up with. For educators who didn’t grow up online, or don’t have a lot of time to spend on it each day, staying updated with what happens online is even harder. However, educators don’t need to know everything about social media, because students already do. By elevating student voices, we’re empowering them to coach up, and what better way for advice to resonate with them than suggestions from a fellow student?  

Peer-to-Peer Advice:

  • “You don’t have to reply right away: Set your phone to “do not disturb” for everyone except essential contacts to reduce anxiety about constant notifications.” – 17-year-old from Hayward, CA
  • “Your attention is power, and you have the control to curate your online experience” – 14-year-old from South Jamaica, Queens
  • “It’s a memory box for you. A highlight reel of fun moments to share with friends and family. Every time I open my phone, I don’t see perfect celebrities. I just see my friends.” – 17-year-old from Scottsdale, AZ
  • Bed is for dreaming, not scrolling: Keep your phone out of the bedroom at night to improve sleep quality and reduce the temptation to scroll endlessly.

Advice for adults, from students 

  • Open Dialogue: Encourage open conversations about social media use. Kamryn, a student from Louisiana, says, “Create an open environment where your teenager is honest with you, so it doesn’t feel like they have to lie.” By fostering dialogue, educators can gain insights into the specific challenges students face and offer tailored advice.
  • Social Media and Tech Lessons: Incorporate a social media curriculum into the class schedule. Teach students critical thinking skills, media literacy, and responsible online behavior. Digital platforms, like #WinAtSocial, teach students modern life skills to navigate social media and avoid the potential pitfalls of their actions on social media.
  • Promote Offline Activities: Encourage students to engage in offline activities that promote physical and mental well-being. Emphasize the importance of hobbies, sports, and spending time in nature. Provide opportunities for students to unplug and recharge away from screens.
  • Lead by Example: Educators can model responsible decision-making. By demonstrating a healthy balance between their online and offline lives, teachers can inspire students to do the same and show students that it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of technology without becoming consumed by it.

TSI’s Take

Educators play a powerful role in shaping the lives of students, both in and out of the classroom. About 97% of students ages 13 – 17 are using social media, and 45% of those students say they use it almost constantly. Since most teen students are online, it’s crucial for educators to understand the challenges they face and how these challenges can affect their overall well-being. By huddling with students, and discussing the issues they face online, educators can empower students to navigate social media positively and responsibly. Share these tips with your students to help make their social media a more positive space:

  • See a post that you dislike? Block, unfollow, or keep scrolling: The ultimate goal behind students hiding or ignoring posts and accounts they don’t like is to keep their peace of mind and avoid escalating a situation with a comment. Remind students that when they’re upset online, it’s easier to comment or post something they don’t mean, which could ultimately make others upset. To avoid problems on social media, and make it a place for everyone to enjoy, just keep scrolling
  • See something? Say something: One of the most important lessons we teach is to cyberback others. This most simply means teaching students to support others online, not leave or post hurtful messages, and to speak up if they see someone getting cyberbullied. 
  • Evaluate information before you share: Making sure the information we share online is accurate is important to not mislead others. In addition, sharing misinformation online can be harmful to others. Let students know to carefully evaluate the source of the information they see online, double-check with a Google search, and find a reliable source. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

Want more advice and lessons on empowering students to make high-character decisions online? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest social media updates, and request a demo for #WinAtSocial today. 

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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.