Coaching teens to use social media responsibly can teach productive networking early on

Teens use social media. A lot. More than 7 hours a day. According to Common Sense Media, tweens ages 8 to 13 spend almost 5 hours a day looking at a screen outside of school. The good news is that spending time on devices can create opportunities for students to start learning how to build a professional and productive social network that will help prepare them for high school and college.

In a Harvard Business Review survey, less than half of working professionals who identified as people of color said that they prioritize networking to help build their career. This is striking, especially when compared with a 2017 LinkedIn study that found that 80 percent of professionals said networking was important for career success. The same study found that 70 percent of people were hired at a company where they already had a connection. To prepare students for high school and college, it?s important to teach them how to responsibly use social media as a productive tool for learning and socializing.

We at CPASS recommend that teens, their families and their teachers focus on these values to build productive social and professional networking skills:

  • Responsibility and autonomy. Harvard Graduate School of Education developmental psychologist Nancy Hill explains that spending time online is a way to help teens grow. ?Socializing is an important need at this point in a young person?s life and helps them develop their own identity. Let them connect safely with friends.? In addition to using social media to safely connect with friends, Forbes Magazine writer Susan Adams encourages students to join LinkedIn while they?re in high school. LinkedIn allows teens to network with professional adults who are doing work that interests them. It shows prospective colleges and employers that a teen is serious about building a career and gives teens opportunities to share recommendations and endorsements.

  • Productive discourse. To help teens learn to be responsible digital citizens, get them involved in debunking misinformation. The Poynter Institute?s Teen Fact Checking Network ?publishes daily fact-checks for teenagers, by teenagers.? Their teen users fact check stories about everything from California banning screaming on amusement park rides because of COVID-19 (not true) to whether or not NASA gave spiders drugs to see how it would affect how they spun webs (legit).

  • Privacy. Media non-profit Internet Matters recommends that parents talk directly with their teens about the challenges of managing their digital footprint. ?Stay interested in what they?re doing online and discuss what they might have come across. Don?t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects like cyberbullying, and sexting and pornography.? Psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos recommends that parents help their children build a good online reputation and fully understand the long-term impact of what they post and who can see it. ?Your child can set privacy settings on most social networking?sites so that only close friends can search for them, tag them in a photograph or share what they?ve posted,? she recommends.

At CPASS Foundation, we are here to support with introducing traditionally underrepresented middle school, high school, and college students to STEMM subjects, majors, and training. We provide guidance and thought leadership to help create opportunities for Illinois-based students to participate in STEMM-related fields. Contact Dr. Stephen Martin to learn more about how you can partner with CPASS Foundation to create more opportunities for Black and other underrepresented students in the Chicago area.