On January 14, the tenth grade tackled questions of how to navigate social media with positivity, integrity, and responsibility, in partnership with The Social Institute.
Instagram. Snapchat. Tik Tok. Finsta. VSCO. YouTube. Reddit. Twitch. Kik. Tumblr. Houseparty. Whisper. And, even, the old (person) standby (dinosaur?) – Facebook. The list of active social media platforms goes on and on, with new additions made almost daily. What’s fueling this proliferation of sites? Who’s using them? In large part: our teens.
According to Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone. A recent Common Sense Media survey on tween and teen media use found that tweens spend an average of 5 hours a day on social media, while teens spend between 6-10 hours, averaging a whopping 7.5 hours a day. Numerous studies have pointed to ways in which social media affect the social and emotional wellbeing of teenagers.
CA students are far from immune to these national trends; they translate to our community as well. We see it every day.
In short, social media is an undeniable and ingrained force (both positive and negative) in our culture and in our students’ lives. And, importantly, it is here to stay. Resistance is, as they say, futile.
That’s why, for several years now, Cary Academy has understood the need to educate our students about digital citizenship and the importance of navigating social media and technology in a responsible, healthy, and productive manner. It’s also why our goal has been to teach students how to seek out and benefit from the positive aspects of social media, to avoid its negativity and potential pitfalls, rather than denying social media’s importance in all our lives.
To that end, we’ve had speakers visit to discuss the dangers of social media, including how it can affect students’ current and future academic opportunities. We’ve conducted sessions in our Upper School advisory program about the differences between various social media platforms and how they can benefit students. And, we’ve shown how social media and technology can complement other resources in various academic disciplines.
Although these activities have been useful, they haven’t necessarily been coherent or comprehensive. And, in some cases, students have viewed activities as negative in focus and boring in execution, rather than positive and exciting, and relevant to their lives—the kiss of death when attempting to reach teens. So, given the undeniable importance of tackling the behemoth that is responsible social media use, we recognize that it’s time for something different.
This year, Cary Academy’s Middle and Upper Schools are joining with The Social Institute to provide a comprehensive social media and technology wellness component in Enrichment and Advisory.
Founded by a Duke University graduate and based in Durham, The Social Institute partners with independent schools and organizations (clients range from local peer institutions to the United States Olympic Committee) to empower students to navigate social media in positive, healthy, and high character ways.
What sets The Social Institute apart? Their positive, customized, comprehensive student-led approach that keeps content relatable and personally relevant to students.
The Social Institute’s materials are developed in close consultation with middle and high school students who share advice and report on real-life social media challenges. They collect data from our students and faculty to further customize content to the Cary Academy community—ensuring that activities, videos, and discussion questions are relevant to our students. And, it’s all delivered through an engaging, interactive game—similar to the trivia game Kahoot!—that uses peer-created content and videos, and research and news articles to engage students and advisors in real-world scenarios and thought-provoking questions that inspire insightful discussions.
Called #Winatsocial, the game focuses on seven social standards: Play to Your Core, Protect Your Privacy Like You’re Famous, Strike a Balance, Cyberback, Find Your Influencers, Using Your Mic for Good, and Handle the Pressure. Each standard focuses on how to use social media to create a better society. For instance:
- Play to Your Core looks at how our use of social media reflects our values and character.
- Protect Your Privacy Like You’re Famous helps students determine how to manage their personal information online.
- Strike a Balance focuses on balancing students’ time on technology.
- Cyberback promotes supporting each other online.
- Find Your Influencers urges students to surround themselves with positive and credible influences.
- Using Your Mic for Good shows students how to use social media to make meaningful change.
- Handle the Pressure teaches students how to find their own path and define who they are without the pressure from others.
Our desire is for our students (and even ourselves) to make decisions that lead them to living their best lives. The Social Institute has created a way for this endeavor to not only be thorough in content but also fun and engaging for teens.
In addition to the activities for students, The Social Institute also offers training for faculty members and advisors, as well as resources for parents that can help you engage your teen in conversations about their social media use and help you understand how to better navigate social media together. We encourage you to check them out and join alongside our students as we #winatsocial.