On average, teens may spend up to nine hours per day using social media, excluding use for homework.

It’s therefore critical that young people understand how to safely navigate these platforms and share online responsibly.

We’ve developed lesson materials for educators seeking to support middle and high school students in using social media and smartphones responsibly and effectively. The lesson can be implemented over a single day or two days depending on the pace of the class.


Materials Include:

  1. Teacher Prep Materials
  2. Mckenzie’s Story (In-Class Video) + Writing & Reflection Prompt Worksheet
  3. Youth Resources
  4. Guidelines for In-Class Discussion
  5. Educator Resources


Social media and smartphones play a growing role in the lives of middle and high school students. Not only do four-fifths of American teens use social media, but many consider social media to be fundamental to their everyday experience (Boyd, 2014). However, we’re learning more about the potential adverse effects of unfettered access and use.


Research confirms that social media expose teens to a wide range of potential mental and physical health risks, including online harassment and cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate or pornographic material and privacy invasion, and increases the risk of developing poor mental health, including depression, addiction, anxiety, and self-objectification, among others (Livingstone & Brake, 2010; O’Keefe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).


According to a 2022 Pew Research study, 35% of teens use at least one social media platform (YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook) “almost constantly.” Around a third say social media takes up too much of their time, with teen girls more likely than teen boys to express it would be difficult to give up (Pew Research, 2022).




Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Kelly, N. (2021). If you want to support the health and wellness of kids, stop focusing on their weight. The Conversation.


Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: Teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression. New Media & Society, 10(3), 393–411.


O’Keefe, G., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents and families. Pediatrics, 127(4). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org.


Pew Research (2022). Teens, social media, and technology.

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About JLI


The Journalistic Learning Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and the College of Education. JLI’s mission is to empower students to discover their voice, improve academic outcomes, and engage in self-directed learning through project-based storytelling. Since 2015, JLI has benefited more than 7,500 middle and high school students in Oregon and California. Teachers interested in learning more about the Effective Communicators Educator Fellowship can find more here.

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