Today's Current Event: Technology, Social Media, and Youth
Current Events: What Can Young People Do?
Every day there are opportunities to discuss our role in civil society and decide whether and how to get involved in current events. Learning to Give helps students learn and practice taking action for the common good—yes, this too is philanthropy. This page provides tools and tips related to current events. Look here to involve your students' voice and action to make a difference.
From holidays to elections to triumphs to tragedies, there is always something going on that can spark conversations about what we can do as informed, responsible and generous students.
Find tips and resources about addressing challenging issues in the classroom. Follow these guidelines to establish a safe environment, promote respectful dialogue, back up arguments with facts, and talk about news and current events with students: Difficult Conversations
Help your students evaluate the roles of media, bias, “facts”, and critical thinking related to current events and controversial topics: Media Literacy Tips
Technology, Social Media, and Youth
With the increased use of social media among today’s youth, many educators are weighing the benefits and challenges of using technology, specifically social media, inside or outside the classroom. For this reason, educating your students on topics such as confirmation bias and selective exposure will help you provide a holistic understanding of what it means to use technology, social media, and the worldwide web in the 21st century.
Focus Question: How does social media both benefit and imperil civil society?
On average, students check their phones in the classroom more than 11 times per day and these glances can either be harmless texts or moments of research, or they can include cyberbullying or cheating. How do we best educate youth on when, how, and why to use technology and social media to benefit others and themselves?
Technology and Mental Health
Technology and social media provide students resources and safe spaces to talk about different topics. However, increased digital interactions with peers is causing a decline in in-person interaction, which has the potential to cause added anxiety in young people when they are prompted to partake in face-to-face interactions in the classroom or outside world. This lack of in-person interaction and focus on digital interactions is raising concern over increases in youth depression and anxiety.
Interestingly, the medium that creates the concern is also the primary source where youth access information to relieve it. According to a survey, at least 90 percent of teens and young adults with symptoms of depression said they had gone online for information about mental health issues. When teens don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult or peer about their concerns, they turn to technology and social media. While information gathering is a great skill to develop, youth must learn to wade through the clutter to find information that is factual, credible, and helpful.
Technology and Social Movements
Many recent social justice campaigns started and spread using social media. Students have been at the forefront of movements, like #NeverAgain, which allowed them to advocate for a cause they were passionate about.
Technology as a Form of Expression
Social media allows teens to express themselves and share their creativity in a format that can be easily shared with people all over the world. But youth often fall into the invisible trap of “if it’s not online, did it really happen?”
The Internet isn’t going away anytime soon! While students are engaging in meaningful online activities, it is important that we prepare them for the dangers and effects of online media consumption. Educators can focus on the reality of how easy it is to manipulate perceptions with disinformation and raise awareness that anyone can be a target of online bullying or identity theft.
Technology and Critical Thinking
Technology users of all ages, but especially youth, must be critical thinkers and critical consumers of any information they find online. What was once thought to be the largest dictionary (with the correct definitions) is now a database ripe with everything from disinformation to research-backed articles and accredited resources to self-proclaimed experts. This online fact check resource currently shows 2600+ media sources listed in a database and it's growing every day. Don’t be fooled by Fake News sources. Use the search feature to check the bias of any source.
The following activities and resources will help you and your students understand how technology is both freeing and constraining to society.
Activities to Explore Social Media:
- Conduct surveys in your school! Students can conduct a survey at their school and share the survey through social media. Use this with your students first, analyze the data, and then prompt them to create their own survey to gather the information that interests them most. Click here for a sample survey
- Track social media usage! Have students monitor their social media usage for 5 days, including which platforms they are using and how long they are on them for. They can use the “Screen Time” function on their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to help them. Students can analyze their usage data to evaluate how much time they use social media and how. Challenge students to give up their favorite social media platform for two days and have them journal their experience of giving it up. Reflect on this together.
- Play “Fake News Simon Says”! Give students about three minutes to carefully read an article on their laptops. Using this checklist as a guide, students examine the source of the article and use their judgment. Those who think the article is false, stand up, while the "true" believers stay in their seats. Discuss the evidence on both sides. Discuss the ways it can be easy to be tricked online, and what to look for to make sure we read carefully and critically.
- Create a hashtag campaign! Have students split into groups and come to a consensus on a cause their group is passionate about (hunger, literacy, inclusion, cyberbullying). Student groups create hashtags that capture the essence of their causes and what they are trying to accomplish. Have students post facts and messages using the hashtag to help bring awareness to their cause. If you’re using a Learning to Give lesson or activity, add the hashtag #LTGInMyClassroom to share the lesson experience online.
- Spread positive messages to lift up classmates! Randomly put students into groups of three. Their task is to share positive messages on the social media accounts of the people in their group. They must each post an original message or make a positive comment on an existing post for each person in the next 24 hours. Later in class, discuss how these posts made each of the students feel. Relate this discussion of positive messages to how they would feel if they received negative messages. Raise awareness that the words we choose to use online have a real-world impact on the individual we choose to write to.
- Media Literacy - This toolkit helps students identify credible sources, evaluate the role of media, recognize bias, and use critical-thinking related to current events and controversial topics.
- Service-Learning Toolkit Related to Health - This list of service project ideas and resources are designed to spark ideas for actions related to making healthy choices, disease research, and mental health advocacy.
- Proud of Who I Am - This lesson has students demonstrate self-respect by learning good habits for taking care of their emotional and physical health. The students will be provided with an opportunity to practice treating oneself and being treated by others with respect.
- Impact of Social Media on Philanthropy - This briefing paper discusses how social media has a large and growing impact on philanthropy and action for the common good.
- GivingTuesday - Students learn how GivingTuesday uses the power of social media and combining efforts with others to make a big difference. Students explore their giving passion and use communication as an instrument of change.
- Anti-Bullying Units and Lessons - Teach lessons that involve students in understanding patterns of bullying behavior and making plans to set up a more positive school culture. Student awareness of the issue can help reduce negative behaviors.
- Image Conveys a Powerful Voice: Yours! - Students use visual literacy skills to analyze the components and message of an image. The students identify issues that are meaningful to them and create a simple image/message and then design a social media campaign to advocate for their issue.
- Media Bias/Fact Check - This online resource currently shows 2600+ media sources listed in a database and it's growing every day. Don’t be fooled by Fake News sources. Use the search feature to check the bias of any source.
Topics and Discussions
These are the top social media-related issues as raised by a group of students from Clarenceville High School in Michigan. Each topic below provides an opportunity to open discussions and dialogue about social media usage with your students.
- Privacy: 4th Amendment Issues: Where does social media fit into the 4th Amendment? How much access should parents have to their children’s phone? How much access should a school have?
- Censorship: Is it ethical/legal to block social media? When, if ever, should a platform ban someone? Ex.) White supremacists on Twitter- should they be allowed to use it?
- “Catfishing”: Being able to identify and prevent scammers pretending to be other people. What are the concerns for younger people just starting to use social media?
- Historiography: What are the effects when people can’t tell a good source from a bad one? What are examples of people posting false sources/fake news online?
- Cyberbullying: Is this overblown by the media and not as big of a problem as presented? Is it enough to “just block the bully”?
In the News
- How Social Media is Reshaping Today’s Education System via Georgetown University
- Social Media’s Impact on Students’ Mental Health Comes Into Focus via neaToday
- 9 ways real students use social media for good via ISTE
- How to Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning via Edutopia
- Teach Students To Use Social Media (The Right Way) And The Possibilities Are Endless via NPR
- The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Source Credibility via Education World
- Social Networks for Students and Teachers: Incorporate these social media tools into your classroom to help students communicate with peers and participate in topics that interest them.
- Turn Students into Fact-Finding Web Detectives: These posters and handouts show students where to look for credible information on the web.
- Classroom Mental Health: This website provides resources to build a more mental health-friendly classroom.