David Monahan, Fairplay, [email protected]
Experts to Department of Education: Tell schools to stop using social media to communicate with students
Citing evidence of social media harms, 51 signatories call on DOE to take action
BOSTON and WASHINGTON, DC – Thursday, June 16, 2022 – Today, 22 organizations and 29 experts called on the U.S. Department of Education to issue official guidance against the use of social media to communicate with students. In a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, signatories cited evidence of social media’s harmful impacts on young people, as well as the potential for school-sanctioned time on social media to exacerbate students’ overuse of these habit-forming and potentially harmful products.
“Unaware of the addictive nature of social media and the risks it poses to children’s emotional health, some schools encourage or even mandate that students use social media to get important information about extracurriculars, school assemblies, and a variety of other topics” said Richard Freed, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Wired Child. “Other forms of communication from the school – such as paper handouts, emails, or website updates – should serve this function. This harmful practice must stop.”
The advocates’ letter noted a recent Surgeon General Advisory which points to social media as a key factor worsening the current teen mental health crisis, as well as internal research from Meta that showed Instagram undermined teen girls’ body image.
“We would never allow schools to give students dangerous or risky homework assignments – they have a duty of care to protect our children,” said Lisa Cline, Chair of the Screens in Schools Work Group at non-profit advocacy organization Fairplay’s Screen Time Action Network. “Encouraging young people to use social media for official school activities exposes children to a number of risks to their wellbeing and it disempowers parents.”
Specific guidance for schools suggested by the advocates includes:
- Refrain from using social media for student-facing communication, including class work, homework-assignments, sports, club or team-related events and schedules.
- Ensure that educators are trained to not promote social media accounts and to avoid student-facing social media posts.
- Do not host school discussions or events on social media platforms (e.g. via Instagram Live).
- Offer paper schedules and flyers for all school events.
“Schools should be – in so many ways – safe places for our kids. Schools that continue to push our kids deeper into social media platforms are exacerbating the problems our kids face in 2022,” said Joe Clement, educator and co-author of Screen Schooled. “It’s a small thing to ask of our schools to stop communicating with kids via social media, yet it has potentially huge benefits. The right path forward here could not be more clear.”
“As an educator, I see first hand the devastating impact social media has on an entire generation of young people,” said Matt Miles, educator and co-author of Screen Schooled. “Whether it’s the anxiety created through constant social comparison, the radicalization created by biased and misleading posts, the risky and destructive behavior encouraged by trends, or the depression and suicide that results from cyber bullying – social media is devastating our students. It’s time schools stop exacerbating this problem.”