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?

I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

My parents bring school supplies and health necessities to rural China. “The Forgotten Schools of Ghost Town” is my calling, too. Four students walk up a barren mountain with dusty backpacks on their shoulders. We see them every year. The four are always...

Student reporter Luna Lee of Miss Porter’s School in the U.S. state of Connecticut gives a heart wrenching account of how children in rural parts of China willingly trek long distances in harsh conditions for an education housed in places few people would consider a school. Her first person story about a nonprofit run by her parents to help these schools and these young people demonstrates how in many places education is a privilege that people don’t take for granted.

Exercise: Students should consider whether in their own country education is considered a privilege or a human right. Have students look at this map of data from UNESCO of primary school completion rates and determine in what countries the fewest and largest percentages of students who go on to secondary education.

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.

Media glare can enrich tennis pros yet imperil mental health

Media glare can enrich tennis pros yet imperil mental health

Tennis pros can leverage social media to win lucrative endorsements. But they can also be the target of abuse that threatens their mental health. Naomi Osaka reacts after missing a point during a tennis match in Madrid, Spain, 9 May 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)...

Social media platforms, not mainstream outlets, shape how many young people see the world. Naomi Osaka, one of the world’s best and most recognizable tennis players, has skillfully leveraged social media to build a sizable and loyal fan base. When she snubbed the mainstream media at the 2021 French Open, many of her followers glimpsed only a vulnerable young woman, harassed and persecuted by the mainstream media. Rachel Roth of The Hewitt School has provided a more nuanced look at Osaka’s relationship with the press, which has both hounded and enriched her. Roth interviewed former top tennis pro Patrick McEnroe and a Columbia University professor to produce a well-rounded account of Osaka’s rocky rapport with journalists.

Exercise: Ask your students to choose a social media star from entertainment or sport and look at how the image of themselves that they cultivate on social media compares with coverage in mainstream media.

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