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Teaching Social and Emotional Learning Through the Headlines

When Valentine's Day Goes Digital: Texting Do's and Don'ts 

Ah... love is in the air – and the school hallways. Remember that childhood anticipation of Valentine’s Day? Decorated shoe boxes, paper valentines from classmates, heart-shaped cookies and red carnations sold for high school fundraisers.
 
With “Text Me” sentiments stamped on little candy hearts, today's Valentine’s Day messages are just as likely to arrive digitally – providing the perfect social and emotional learning opportunity to discuss the do’s and don’ts of texting, e-mailing and video chatting, especially when it comes to young love (or like).
 
Recent Common Sense Media research finds two-thirds of parents surveyed (67 percent) say that monitoring their children’s media use is more important than respecting their privacy. Of parents who are “moderately” or “extremely “ worried about their children’s use of the Internet, 33 percent worry about their children receiving or sending sexual images. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 24 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly,” so it only makes sense that we talk with them about the often unintended consequences of digital behavior.
 
Texts and photos can be too revealing. Messages –even disappearing Snap images – can be misconstrued and “private” comments copied, forwarded and shared. In a recent New York Times article, Devorah Heitner, PhD, founder and director of Raising Digital Natives, reported that some of the most important online rules are being created by the kids themselves, like unspoken social codes. When it comes to posting photos, “girls want to be sexy, but not too sexy. Be careful of which vacation photos you share so you don’t seem to brag. It’s OK to post photos from an event, but not too many.” She wrote of the middle school digital school “balancing act” among girls who want to be seen as pretty (and even a little sexy) but also innocent and “nice.”
 
Dr. Heitner suggests adults ask children about what the rules for social media seem to be among their peers: What are you “allowed” to post? Are the rules same for boys and girls? What’s an example of a good post and a bad post? This exercise is an important step to reinforce important values and to help children navigate this world of social media and its inevitable digital role in real relationship building. 

SEL Connections:
Consider these SEL connections to help students both build mature relationships and manage their digital habits. 
 
Self-Awareness: How often do you post on social media? Do you find yourself checking for "likes"? How do these responses make you feel? How might keeping some thoughts or experiences more private feel? Or sharing them in person, face-to-face with a friend? 

Self-Management: How often do you "like" or respond to someone else's post? How often do you find yourself checking social media? How might you feel by disconnecting for a little while?
 
Social Awareness:  What are some of the intentions people might have for posting photos online? What are some of the unintended consequences? Why do you think some state laws consider sexting child pornography? 

Relationship Skills: How might your texts and posts impact your friends and family? How do your friends' texts and posts impact you?

Responsible Decision-Making: Describe a situation in which peer pressure impacted a decision you made. How did that make you feel? How might you have handled it differently? 

CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies

•  Self-Awareness
•  Self-Management
•  Social Awareness
•  Relationship Skills
•  Responsible
•  Decision-Making
 

The Stats on Sexting 
The term sexting means sending and/or receiving sexual images or messages online. Studies have shown that roughly one-third of 16- and 17-year-olds share suggestive images on their mobile phones, perhaps intentionally, out of curiosity, or because of peer pressure. Teens who create or share sexual images can be convicted of child pornography production or distribution.

Elizabeth Englander, a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University, studied the after effects of sexting, finding the outcome was generally “feeling worse.” She says that talking with children about obeying the law, respecting others’ privacy, everyone’s right to keep their bodies private, and what values you have about this issue is what parenting around sexting is all about.
 
Questions to Consider:
Why would someone send photos over the phone?

What are some of the pressures to fit in you might feel from your friends? How can you best respond and handle them? 

Why is it important to value and respect our own bodies? What does that say about self-control?

What does sexting say about respect and self-respect?
 

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