Social Media Is Hurting Social-Emotional Skills. How 4 School Districts Are Fighting Back

On Education Week, Lauraine Langreo wrote this special report that breaks down data from a new survey highlighting teacher concerns over student social-media use—and looks at varied district efforts emphasizing social-emotional learning in response: 

Social media, generative artificial intelligence, and other advances in digital technology are already dramatically influencing how kids develop social-emotional skills.

A majority of educators believe social media negatively impacts those skills, such as how students communicate, how they treat others, how isolated they feel, or how they perceive themselves, according to a nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey of 595 teachers, school leaders, and district leaders conducted in December and January.

These concerns come as the share of teenagers who say they’re online “almost constantly” has roughly doubled since 2014-15, according to the Pew Research Center. A growing number of studies have also linked children’s use of smartphones and social media to their worsening mental, social, and emotional well-being.

In addition to navigating academic challenges, districts know they also need to address the effects that digital technology has on students’ social-emotional skills. Social-emotional learning is the teaching of nonacademic skills—such as emotional regulation, communication, and collaboration—that are important for success in school and in life.

The EdWeek Research Center survey found that a majority (65 percent) of educators agree that they should be responsible for helping students learn to use social media in ways that support their mental health and well-being.

Many schools are already on the right track, but many others are not. A few of the districts Education Week initially contacted for this story said they have not thought about applying SEL skills to tech use. A small majority (54 percent) of students said a teacher or an adult at their school has discussed how to use social media in ways that do not damage their mental health and well-being, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey of 1,056 high school students conducted in February.”

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