Can we prevent social media from harming our mental health?

Can we prevent social media from harming our mental health?

Social media can harm a young person’s mental health. Can youth be taught to use the platforms responsibly and avoid excessive consumption? Teenage girl under pressure to achieve (Ikon Images via AP Images) This story was a runner-up in News Decoder’s 12th...

While there are positive aspects to social media platforms, they can also pose mental health risks. There is the fear of missing out and pressure to become more beautiful, slimmer, cooler and sportier. Student Maria Ermanni of Realgymnasium Rämibühl in Zürich talked to an expert about the positives and negatives of social media for teens and reached the conclusion that while social platforms have become an indispensable part of our daily lives, the responsibility for safe media use lies with the user.

Exercise: Have students write a paragraph that describes their best and worst experience with social media. Then ask them to consider whether they think that there should be limits on what people can post and share on social media, and if yes, what those limits should be. Ultimately, do they think that the benefits of social media outweigh the negative toll it has taken on the mental health of young people?

Buried underpants and tea bags help scientists evaluate soil

Buried underpants and tea bags help scientists evaluate soil

Swiss citizens are burying cotton underpants and tea bags in their gardens and fields to help scientists assess the quality of soil in the Alpine nation. (Photo courtesy of Beweisstück Unterhose) This story won first prize in News Decoder’s 12th Storytelling...

Student reporter Luis Eberl of Realgymnasium Rämibühl in Zurich, Switzerland, interviewed scientist Marcel van der Heijden of the University of Zurich about an experiment to find ways to slow down or prevent soil deterioration caused by erosion, construction, pesticides and drought. The project invites citizens to test their own soil by planting tea bags and cotton underpants – two common household items – and then testing the level of deterioration. Eberl shows how scientists are engaging everyday people in climate change projects to demonstrate that individuals’ small actions can lead to global solutions.

Exercise: Interviewing an expert for a story is a great way to get information to readers that might not be reported elsewhere. Have students think of an issue that would be important to report and see if they can identify an expert who might be good to interview for a story on that issue.

Listen: How can we curb misinformation & defend free speech?

Listen: How can we curb misinformation & defend free speech?

The world is awash in misinformation. But can we rein it in without eroding free speech? Our podcast explores this thorny issue facing our societies. News Decoder · Let's Talk About It This story won second prize in News Decoder’s 12th Storytelling...

Many young people find it difficult to write. They can struggle to convey their thoughts and can get bogged down in convoluted sentences. Our recommendation is to write as though you are explaining an issue to your family over dinner – to keep it simple. That’s one reason a podcast can offer a more natural way to examine an issue, even one as thorny as free speech. In their engaging podcast, Chloe Patricof and Anabella Paige of The Hewitt School speak naturally about a tough topic – misinformation – and turn to the managing editor of a U.S. media company to explore whether government regulation is an answer. Such a conversation can be an alluring way to delve into a knotty issue.

Exercise: Have your students pair up and record a conversation about a polarizing issue in their community, making sure to try to convey the views of all legitimate sides.

War in Ukraine stirs empathy & angst in neighboring Romania

War in Ukraine stirs empathy & angst in neighboring Romania

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent millions of refugees into neighboring nations. I live in Romania, where the war has stirred compassion and fear. A Ukrainian refugee on a bus at the Romanian-Ukrainian border in Siret, Romania, 8 March 2022 (AP Photo/Andreea...

War in Europe has awakened an entire generation in the West to the horrible realities of armed conflict. Octavian-Anton Ghisa lives in Romania, which borders Ukraine, and so he naturally takes a keen interest in the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have poured over the border since Russia invaded Ukraine. Ghisa, a student at Transylvania College, combines that interest with a knack for listening to others and produces a piece that captures a powerful mix of emotions: “fear, stress, compassion, panic and even ambivalence.” Listening carefully is a skill that does not come naturally to many young people but which underpins any solid reporting.

Exercise: Ask each student to interview a parent about a difficult moment in their youth and to write a short article based on quotes from the interview.

Watch: Here’s how Switzerland has tackled its heroin problem

Watch: Here’s how Switzerland has tackled its heroin problem

What’s the best way for a country to curb heroin addiction? My nation, Switzerland, offers an example for the world to follow. This video won first prize in News Decoder’s 11th Storytelling Contest. The year is 1985, and Switzerland is faced with one of...

Video is the flavor of the day for both mainstream and social media, but few know how much work goes into a quality product. Kai Lengwiler of Realgymnasium Rämibühl Zurich weaves extensive research, including exclusive interviews, and compelling music and images into his 14-minute video that examines Switzerland’s controversial approach to combating the use of hard drugs. Lengwiler promises that viewers will have a better understanding of drug epidemics and how to fight them after watching the video, and he lives up to his promise.

Exercise: Ask your students to produce a three-minute video exploring an issue of global concern, including excerpts of at least one exclusive interview and rights-free music.

When my father left.

When my father left.

My father was the light in my life — until he left. A setback, for sure, but my mother and I persevered. Now I know courage bows to no obstacle. (Shutterstock/Anna Ismagilova) This story was co-winner of the first prize in News Decoder’s 10th Storytelling...

Elizabeth Tina Fornah of the African Leadership Academy relates the pain that so many young people experience when separated from a parent, but her story rises above self-pity as the narrator discovers courage in her refusal to bow to inevitable obstacles. “This is a painful, yet relatable reflection on the challenges of pursuing survival and the determination to succeed,” News Decoder Trustee Faith Abiodun said. “This writer has such a way with words that a difficult topic becomes almost enjoyable. Brilliant and gripping at the same time.” Throughout the highly personal account, Tina Fornah leverages the image of light to lend continuity as the narrator grows in strength and understanding.

Exercise: Ask students to describe their relationship with their parents and whether the expression “there is light at the end of the tunnel” captures their feelings as they contemplate eventually leaving home.

Contest winners