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Poll: Over 90 Percent of Teachers Report Social Media Problems Disrupt Learning

Sad girl

In our recent poll of K-8 educators, nearly 92% reported that “problems that originate online impact the learning environment” either often (33%) or sometimes (59%). We were curious what these problems were, so we asked about that too. Overwhelming, teachers said that problems related to “digital drama” (everyday disagreements or tiffs that occur between youth online or via text) spilled over into the school day. Here are some typical responses:


  • Gossip on social media between students (or their family and friends) can sometimes flare up at school.

  • Rumors often begin and/or spread on social media and then impact social relationships at school.

  • Social media and relationships end up impacting social lives in school—rumors, drama, etc. and can detract from learning environment.

  • Student use of Snapchat, TikTok and Messenger have been used to make fun of other students and even use screenshots to embarass/harass other students.

  • Inappropriate language and students being mean to each other or talking bad about another student.

  • Social media posts cause students to cry regularly (middle school). 


The second most mentioned problem involved the sharing/posting of the images of others without their permission. This caused embarrassment or hurt feelings all around. Here are some examples:


  • Students share images/information online without permission from the people in the images or about whom the information is being shared and the item shared is private or embarrassing. Students then talk about it at school, bully, tease, and disrupt.

  • Students will record each other and post these videos to share. Then students talk about these incidents and it becomes way bigger than it should have been.


Also commonly mentioned was the issue of exclusion. Students were often left out of chat groups, games, or may not have access to devices when other students did. For example:


  • Students start group chats that are sometimes exclusive of other students, and sometimes they use those chats to talk about classmates behind their backs. The ill will spreads into the classroom.

  • The occasional student who has social media accounts when many others don't is a problem in lots of different ways.


The three issues above dominated the responses we received from teachers (overwhelmingly). But another significant issue also mentioned was the problem of misinformation:


  • Students have disagreements based on information they get online. It's hard for them to figure out what's reliable.


Teachers also mentioned that parents were sometimes the instigators of problems that impacted the learning environment:


  • Parents will start group chats about other parents and their children. Eventually even the kids hear about it.

  • When parents go on social media and complain about teachers without ever reaching out directly to the teacher. It sacrifices a professional relationship and the dignity of that teacher.

  • Some parents have asked us to get involved in online conflicts, but we only get involved when it disrupts the school day.


 Finally, the overuse of technology was noted too, although not nearly as much as we expected:


  • Media consumption (YouTube, games, you name it) is addicting & absolutely impacts sleep schedules, homework, study time, dinner time, and classroom decorum (sometimes inequitably).


How To Address Social Media Problems in the Classroom?

teacher teaching

Clearly, the addition of technology to the lives of students means that teachers have a lot more to deal with in addition to their already full plates. Reading through their responses, we realized this is a universal struggle.  


Many of the lessons (listed below) that we offer through Cyber Civics deal directly with the problems teachers mentioned. Keeping in mind how hard it is to fit these into an already full day, we aligned each one with educational standards (Common Core ELA standards, ISTE Tech Standards, CASEL Competencies), so that when teaching these lessons, teachers can essentially kill two birds (or three or four birds) with one stone.


Below we have listed some of the lessons that address the most commonly mentioned problems. If you are a teacher reading this and are dealing with any of these issues in your classroom, please ask us to send you a sample lesson. We’d be more than happy to do so.


Digital Drama: The Value of Kindness, the Showing Kindness Online (4th & 5th grades); Cyberbullying & Digital Drama, You Are the Words You Use (6th Grade); How Will You Participate? (8th grade).


Sharing Photos Without Permission: Respecting the Personal Information of Others, Checking In Before Sharing (4th & 5th grades); To Share or Not To Share (6th grade); Privacy Policies, Protecting Your Online Data (7th grade); Let’s Talk About Sexting, Sexting: Just Say No (8th grade).


Misinformation: Can You Believe What You See?, Understanding Perspective (6th grade); Algorithms are Awesome, Or Are They? (7th grade); Analyzing Online Information, What is “Fake” News?, What Does AI Have to Do With It? (8th grade).

Overuse: Finding Just the Right Balance, What Does It Mean to Be Offline? (4th and 5th grades); Your Time (7th grade); Are You a Maker or a Taker?, Your Brain on Tech, How Will You Participate? (8th grade).

Diana Graber

Diana Graber is the author of "Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology" and the founder of Cyber Civics and Cyberwise.



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