As parents and educators, we are aware of the dangers of social media — but there’s less of a conversation around using social media in a positive way. Since screen time is a way of life, especially for students, it’s important to teach them about using social media for good. Whether they’re showcasing their volunteer work, helping their peers, working with charities, or just improving their college and career opportunities, we asked 6 experts to share their best tips for encouraging teens to use social media in a positive way.
Amanda Ponzar, Community Health Charities, @HealthCharities
Teens can do good by promoting positive content on social media. Post inspiring quotes, charity news, interesting hobbies (cooking, movies, hiking, etc.). Share your volunteer work and spread the word about volunteer opportunities. Post an #unselfie while volunteering. Use the Community Health Charity tool to find opportunities by zip code and keyword. Refuse to participate in cyberbullying. Cyber bullying is pervasive on social media, especially Instagram.
2. Create videos that showcase your volunteering effortsJosh Ochs, SmartSocial.com, @JoshOchs
Consider creating a YouTube channel under your real name (only if you are 13+ years old and you get approval from your parents). If you volunteer, spent the summer working an internship, or seized a rare opportunity, consider creating a video telling a story about your experience. Be sure to thank the organization you worked with and share what you learned. Find an interest and post videos that tell that story. For example: if you want to become a veterinarian, create videos that teach viewers about animals at your local shelter.
3. Students can create a Facebook group for other teensJayne Hitchcock, WHOA & WHOA-KTD
Students can create a group for other teens to join to share tips on homework, fashion, music, whatever they are interested in. A group is better than a page (on Facebook) because they can set it so posts have to be moderated before being posted.
They can create contests for photos on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Pick a different topic each week and as a prize, either get something from an inexpensive store like the Dollar Tree to send to the winner or see if they can find a sponsor to give e-gift cards as the winning prizes. Or they can just do it for fun!
Do a how-to on something they are good at – making jewelry, fashion tips, makeup tips, writing a song, cooking, etc. and asking others to submit their own ideas.
If they know someone who is ill or lonely, put out a request to send greeting cards to that person. They could also pick a nursing home in the city and have people send cards there, then see how many get sent.
David Dietrich, Fair Angle, @FairAngleOnline
Actions such as sharing your favorite nonprofit’s social media posts can mean as much to nonprofits as paid online advertising. This is great for campaigns such as donation challenges or volunteering opportunities. Even just sharing regular posts/updates helps to create awareness.
If teens are active on blogs or forums they can provide links to their favorite nonprofit’s website. These links are what drives SEO and it will make it easier for potential supporters to find them on google.
Teana McDonald, 3E Connections, @3EConnections
Social media is such a powerful resource and if it is used by an individual that doesn’t understand it’s impact things can go wrong. Teenagers should be using these tools to highlight the positive aspects of their lives and what they are doing to make themselves, those around them, and the world better. From posting about your Top 5 favorite summer reads to walking the neighbors dog, these are the types of posts that they should be sharing.
If you can’t show it to your parents – don’t show it to others. Think about how your words impact others before you post. Don’t post inappropriate images (bathing suits shots, adult beverages, etc.). Ask yourself how your social media platforms look to a potential company that you would like to work for in the future. If you’re partaking in negative activities, don’t drag your friends down with you by tagging them in inappropriate images or locations.
Dustin Weissman, Psy.D., @Dustin_Weissman
Teens are much more up to date on current events with social media. They no longer need to scour newspapers to learn about happenings around the world. They can use this information database to influence social change, activism, and philanthropy. One such example is the option that Facebook gives its users to allow friends to donate on their behalf. I personally saw a friend who has a birthday today, request monetary donations to support hurricane relief. This is a fantastic feature that allows a lot of people to make a big difference when working together towards a common goal.