Don't forget the emotions of your students

The importance of dealing with emotions online

In previous modules, we have already covered the essence of media literacy: using media actively, consciously and critically. However, it is not enough that students only know how to do this; they have to actually put it into practice. It is crucial that pupils not only have knowledge and skills related to media literacy, but also that they put them into action. They need to learn how to apply their media literacy skills to regulate their emotions while using social media, for example. Research shows that young people who do this experience fewer negative emotions and have higher self-esteem (Schreurs & Vandenbosch, 2020).

Illustrative example:

When a 15-year-old encounters a picture perfect profile on Instagram, they may know that the person behind it doesn't necessarily have a perfect life. Despite this awareness, they might still compare themself and feel jealous, because they don't know how to act in this situation. On the other hand, someone else may learned some coping strategies, like unfollowing accounts that trigger negative emotions. That person might know what to do, but that doesn't mean they will actually act on it.

It is therefore important for teachers to develop activities that encourage pupils not only to think critically about social media, but also to act effectively online. In this way, pupils not only become media literate but also resilient and self-aware in their online interactions.

Schreurs, L., & Vandenbosch, L. (2020). Introducing the Social Media Literacy (SMILE) model with the case of the positivity bias on social media. In Journal of Children and Media (Vol. 15, Issue 3, pp. 320–337). Informa UK Limited.

Check your students vibe

When discussing emotions on social media with your students, it's helpful to offer them strategies for managing these feelings. Moreover, it's valuable to encourage students to share their own approaches for dealing with specific social media situations. They certainly have good coping mechanisms, such as confiding in a friend or taking a break from their smartphone.

To maintain a safe learning environment, you can present fictional scenarios where individuals navigate various online interactions. For instance, scenarios could involve discovering that friends have gathered without them and seeing it on social media, or feeling excluded because friends never tag them in photos.

Building upon module 2, where we saw that it's important to ask your students what they're doing online, you can create an excercise to talk about their emotions from online content.

This approach is based on the Vibe Check (Mediawijs, KU Leuven & WAT WAT - Belgium)

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