At the beginning of each school year, Science Learning Academy students in Philadelphia are given social media guidelines by health and physical education advisor Pia Martin.
“I tell them to look at how you’re representing yourself,” Martin says. “Does that reflect you? If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t write it. Online, others don’t necessarily get [tone of voice], don’t get an explanation for what you meant to say. There is not a conversation.”
By heading off the common misconceptions her students face online, Martin is able to create a healthy social media environment. Here are some other tips:
- Set up your own Facebook or Twitter account and model healthy online behavior.
- Teens may find it easier to express themselves to others, especially adults, online. Be open to communicating with students through social media.
- Creating a public persona through a profile or online bio gives them choices about which part of themselves they want to display and to whom. If you are concerned about a student’s privacy, ask the student to be critical about making choices. Evaluate the profiles of other teens to promote discussion.
- Use social media as a way to teach students critical thinking about information found online. Wikipedia, for example, allows students to see how content is created, stored, edited and organized.