Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media

Written By Sally Forsyth

What can we do to help our students deal with the impact of social media?

As teachers, we are aware of the growing influence social media has on our students, and of the amount of time, they spend online every day. They are busy chatting, browsing, watching videos, listening to music or checking their Instagram, WeChat, or Snapchat posts and comments. Some research has shown they spend up to 9 hours a day online!We can guarantee that social media is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it is most likely not only here to stay, but will probably grow and expand even more. All we can do is give our students guidance as to how social media may impact them in positive and negative ways, and educate kids to be smart about social media.

In our schools, it is important we take action to create programs that educate our students to learn how to manage social media effectively. We can bring awareness to our students on various aspects of social media including the following:


Sadly, many students have been exposed to online bullying. It may have been a nasty comment on Instagram, an offensive conversation on Snapchat or an upsetting picture sent around to different classmates. Often times, this goes on without teachers or parents having a clue that it is happening. We need to encourage students to tell a responsible adult when they know this is occurring, to avoid kids getting upset or feeling hurt. They need to be taught that it is not acceptable to get involved in conversations that someone else may have initiated, which is saying hurtful things about another student they know.

The best thing to do is to take action and tell an adult what is going on. 

Watch what you post

It is very important to educate students that what they post online stays online. This may be photos, images, comments, conversations and so on. Images we post today may surface months or even years later. It is all part of creating our digital footprint, the trail of comments, messages, images and so forth that we post online.

Students need to think carefully before they post. It is important that they realize that everything they post online is building their digital reputation. So they need to ask themselves:

●     How will others see me online?

●     What image do I want to project on social media?

●     Why does it matter?

●     Could what I post online affect my college application or my future career?

It is really essential as educators that we give students space to reflect on the powerful impact social media has on their lives, and what strategies they can use to act smarter online.

Online friends

It is essential that schools raise awareness about internet safety. This is especially true when it comes to online friends.  Students have to be very careful when both teenagers and adults online have become their online friends, people they have not actually met in real life. Students need to ask themselves how much they know about this person and how do they know they are who they say they are. The desire to connect is very strong, and teenagers in particular desire to be popular and they get lots of “likes” for their posts on social media. This can, however, make them vulnerable to connect with people who may not have their best interests at heart.

Kids need to be educated to be cautious when it comes to having conversations online with those they don't know, and to really think twice before they start interacting with that person. Above all, they should never meet an online friend in real life, without a parent or guardian present.

This is particularly true for any international students, who are at your school in an exchange program. They may not be familiar with the social norms of the culture, or the community where they live, which may put them more at risk. Therefore, schools and teachers need to be supportive, so they understand the expectations and norms in these kinds of scenarios. They need to make sure these students are never alone in a situation that may put them at risk.

Fortunately for schools, there are lots of useful resources on line, which will help teach kids to be smart about social media.

Please see below for some useful sites:


Common Sense Media

UK Safer Internet Center









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About the author

Sally Forsyth is a High school English teacher and an educational coach. She has worked in national and internatonal schools in different countries and different school systems, She is also the founder of CoachMyFuture, a coaching organization focusing on coaching teachers and educators in the educational sector.

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