How to Teach Kids to Police Themselves on Social Media

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Listen to “85: How to Teach Kids to Police Themselves on Social Media” on Spreaker.
Before we can teach kids to police their own social media practices, we must police our own actions on social networks, because kids are watching.

I was reminded of this lesson recently, during an enthusiastic debate on Facebook. I explain in the podcast episode above.

5 strategies to teach kids to police their social media activity

1 – Think before you share

Social media can be intoxicating. You’ve likely seen the research about kids being engaged 7-10 hours daily and some adults being unable to function in normal daily life, because they can’t leave social media. It’s so easy to share pictures, graphics, links to content, along with comments and less-than-a-second likes and retweets (see number 4).

We must teach kids to fight the urge to share absent-mindedly. Facebook and Twitter make this extremely easy. Teach students this simple strategy: Read, Reflect, Decide. This process takes 30-60 seconds and it can make a difference in so many lives.

Just read your content carefully; reflect on what it means to share it; then, decide if it should be shared. Remind kids that sometimes they should decide to Not share or interact with content. Discuss what makes content shareable and, more important, if anyone be hurt by your actions.

2 – Never respond in anger

Think for a moment about something you’ve seen recently on a social network that made your blood boil. The share incited you more than anything you can remember. You flinched, frowned and your fingers tingled, because you couldn’t start typing fast enough.

Hopefully, in this case, you used the Read, Reflect, Decide strategy and didn’t post in anger. If something your see on a social network upsets you, it’s best to walk away. If you feel you must respond, do it privately and politely.

Look Inside

3 – Understand the longterm impact of your social shares

Yes, one bad tweet, like or share of content on a social network can hurt you for many years–in some cases forever. College admissions deans and HR directors are watching.

Many people have lost jobs because of one thoughtless share or comment on a social network. Is your future worth that five-seconds it took to post something thoughtless, and likely meaningless, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

There’s a recurring theme here: Read, Reflect, Decide. This habit will serve you well.

4 – Ask, “Why am I liking or retweeting this?”

The Facebook like and Twitter retweet are simple, fun ways to join a conversation on a social network. But when they are used without forethought, they are two of the most dangerous tools on the Internet.

People are so quick to like or retweet something, because they don’t have to create new content or comment; they can interact with content and, perhaps, show support of a friend in less than a second.

While saving time in our hectic social media lives is important, a simple like or retweet can be as damaging as an expletive-laced personal post.

Teach students to consider what their like or retweet means. It’s basically an endorsement of content. Liking a friends post about abortion or antiwar protests may feel like a simple nod to the friend.

Meanwhile, it can be devastating to other friends or even family members who have different beliefs. It’s okay to have an opinion, but it doesn’t have to be shared with the world, and there are times it’s best to simply say No to the like or retweet and move on.

5 – Avoid confrontation

How many times have you wanted to question someone’s intelligence or win a battle of sarcasm in a Facebook or Twitter chat? Consider how often this happens with kids who tend to have a much smaller filter than adults.

Guy Kawasaki, one of the world’s leading social media experts, says to stop at two replies to any heated discussion. Anything beyond two will most likely be negative and potentially harmful.

Plus, many people join conversations late, so they may have missed the context. They see something you said that seems snarky and they don’t consider the other person. It’s you or your student who looks bad.

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For more from the Hack Learning Podcast, visit our episode archive at

A version of this post first appeared at Brilliant or Insane

Author: Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longtime educator and the Founder of Times 10, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, the uNseries, and other books for teachers and learners. To connect with Mark follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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