Tech Talk Circles - Social Media
Social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram are designed to facilitate the creation and sharing of ideas, images, opinions, and community. They are also at times reducing the reality of our lives into the small worlds found on our screens. And more importantly, they are having an effect on our mental wellbeing, especially for our kids. This circle is a place to create dialogue and share realistic actions to facilitate change and lessen daily struggles.
How to start
Print this page from grey printer icon on the left. Welcome everyone and thank them for being part of the circle. Explain that the circle is a place to have a friendly and informative discussion. Be respectful while others are speaking by not interrupting, limit rambling and keep your comments succinct and to the point. Tell everyone that they will have a chance to speak. A good idea is to have an item that can be passed around and held by the person speaking. If there are kids in the circle, acknowledge them and thank them for being part of this important conversation.
Keeping the conversation friendly and flowing
Encourage the group to share their personal stories and feelings about social media. Commonalities and recognition of behavior are some of the best ways to bring about awareness of excessive social media use. Remind them that being honest and open will raise the awareness needed to take personal action limiting time on social media.
Scenes from the movie to talk about
In the film, a teenage girl talks about social media being a competition she can’t win. “You are constantly worried about what other people think of you and how you look.” [WATCH CLIP]
A different girl shared how she used to play with Legos, was an “A” student and wanted to be an engineer at NASA before receiving a Chromebook from her school. Now she spends a lot of her time on social media. Her mother tells the audience that her daughter went from being a straight-A student to getting C’s and D’s. “When it’s there, how can I not use it,” she asks. [WATCH CLIP]
Ask kids how long is the longest time they think they can study without checking in on their social feeds. Then, talk about creating “tech breaks” rather than having access to the social feeds on the same device they are doing homework.
Do you feel like you are missing out if you can’t check your social media?
Do you feel it is the responsibility of the social media creators to add in-app features to help limit the use of their apps?
Share this study about how just having a phone out while in lecture, effects the final exam score.
In a scene in Screenagers where Simon Sinek says “Making eye contact really, really matters. There's a reason why they've never signed a peace treaty over a video conference. … .Digital is good for the maintenance, but not for the building.”
Have you used a phone to avoid face-to-face interactions?
What do you do when you are experiencing conflict with a person? Do you communicate about it only online, or both online and offline?
Do you ever make comments online that you wouldn’t make in person?
Here is a communication tool to help build communication skills that comes from a field of therapy, called DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), created by Marsha Linehan. It’s called DEAR, and it is great to use when anyone is about to ask for something that they are nervous about.
D = Describe the situation
E = Emotion you are feeling about the issue
A = Ask for what you want
R = Reiterate how it will benefit both of you if this can be worked out
More questions (and science) to share
A recent Pew study found that almost all US teens have access to a smartphone, and nearly half of those say they are online “almost constantly.” How many hours do you think you spend on social media? Have you ever considered using a time tracker app or setting up the tool on your phone? How about we all write down what we guess we spend on different apps and then use a time tracker for the week and then share it back with each other.
A study found that social media use has been linked to rising mental health problems, especially for kids. It has also been praised for raising awareness and being a place for support. This is an important conversation to have.
Do you think social media is harming or helping our mental health?
We are not big fans of the terms “cyberbullying” and “bullying.” Pre-teens and teens have heard these words so many times they roll their eyes when they come up. Ask them if they feel they have been saturated with messages about “bullying” and see how they respond. So, when we talk with them about such topics you might want to use terms like “online aggression” and “social cruelty.” Our post on cyberbullying is packed with ways to help. But here are a few conversation starters on it.
Who have you seen in news reports being vicious to someone else? What are some of the many reasons a person might be compelled to act so hurtfully?
How does your school talk to you about cyberbullying? Is it successful at all, or not? If not, what would you do if you were running a school?
What do you think of having a group at school that helps take down social media posts/ texts that are hurting someone?
What would make you place an anonymous call to a service like Safe2tell?
MARC, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, provides terrific resources for parents, educators, and students. Here is a site where you can find many of free handouts for parents to help them through some of these kinds of issues, including information on what bystanders can do. This center is the brainchild of an incredible researcher and change-maker, Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D.
iCanHelpline.com is a service that schools pay a small fee for, and when bullying-type content gets posted, the school calls iCanHelpline, which then works to get it removed from the social media platform. The founder Ann Collier has been doing this work for years and has many connections with all the big players, which is why she is so effective. She happens to be an incredibly caring person to boot.
Many states have reporting processes in place. You might look at your Attorney General’s office website as a start. For example, Colorado has a great service called Safe2Tell which is an 800# phoneline where any concerned person can call—parents, students, teachers, etc.—and anonymously report that they are worried about someone. Then, the organization gets in touch with someone who can help out. Stopbullying.gov and Stomp Out Bullying.org have resources by state.
How to wrap up the conversation
Thank everyone for coming. Reiterate some of the key points that were made. Remind everyone to remain aware of their social media use and put actions learned into practice.