It won't surprise you to learn that teens are living a large portion of their lives online. But did you know that 50% of teens admit feeling addicted to their phones?

That’s a problem.

Excessive time online has been linked to teenage depression, sleep problems and a wide range of physical and mental conditions, often leading to disruptive student behavior in the classroom.

Here’s 5 healthy habits your students can use to manage their time online and make sure they are using social media responsibly and positively.

To get you started, share this FREE article, "Help! My Phone Is Taking Over My Life!" from Scholastic Action magazine. It’s the perfect jumping-off point into discussing healthy online habits like these:

1.  Keep Schoolwork and Smartphones Separate

It’s hard to focus when your phone is constantly tempting you to look at just one more Instagram post. To stay focused when doing homework or engaged in other activities, teens should try leaving their phones in another room or with their parents. Challenge your students to try it just for one night and see how it goes.

To really drive the point home, use the debate "Should Schools Ban Smartphones?" from Scholastic News for grades 5 and 6. Even though most of your students will probably say “No way!”—the question gets students thinking about why they NEED to have their smartphone near them all day, every day.

2.  Set Daily Limits and Take Digital Breaks

One of the easiest ways to cut down time spent on social media is to turn off push notifications or set “Do Not Disturb” hours on your phone. That way your phone isn’t constantly buzzing and interrupting your focus.

You can also encourage your students to take digital breaks. Maybe for two hours on Sunday, they can set their phones aside and go outside, play a board game with their family or read.

Ask your students for ideas about how and when they could take digital breaks during the week. Maybe they already do!

3.  Fact-Check the Internet

The internet is a great source of information—but not all of it is accurate. Learning the difference between reliable and unreliable sources is one of the most important skills today’s students need to learn.

The article “How to Fact-Check the Internet” from Choices is a great place to start. It features tips to help teens decode social media posts, spot confirmation bias and develop a healthy skepticism toward their favorite influencers.

4.  Think Before You Post

It’s so easy to overshare online. And that can lead to all sorts of problems, from public humiliation to cyberbullying. So here are 5 things your teens can ask themselves before posting something online:  

• Is it true?

• Is it kind?

• Would I say it in person?

• Is it helpful or useful?

• Will I feel good about it tomorrow?

If the answer to any of these is no, then they should consider not hitting that POST button just yet. Asking these questions is a great way for teens to practice social media safety. We like to sleep on posts that we’re not sure about. Maybe you’ll feel different in the morning—and once it's on the internet, it's often there forever.

5.  Use Social Media for Good

We spend a lot of time talking about the negative effects of social media. But the internet connects us to friends and family, and can be a powerful tool for sharing our passions and doing good in the world.

So let’s talk about it!

In the Scholastic Art article, “Insta-Hired,” your students will meet an illustrator who uses Instagram to share her work with the world. It’s the perfect launching-off point to encourage your students to use social media with a purpose. You can even brainstorm ideas for how to use social media positively, from raising awareness on important issues to spreading hopeful messages.

We hope these 5 healthy habits will help your teens take a fresh approach to social media usage this year. You might even find a few of them useful for yourself. If you’re looking for more engaging, age-appropriate resources on navigating complex topics like this one, check out Scholastic Classroom Magazines. We have print and digital titles for every subject and grade from Pre-K to Grade 12. You can even start a FREE TRIAL in your classroom.

There are so many challenging topics in this world. Scholastic Classroom Magazines are here to help you and your students explore them all with empathy, curiosity and joy.  

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