Research underpinnings for schools' social media policymaking


  • Harassment and bullying (not predation, sexting and other online risks in the news) are the most common online risks young people face, based on a review of the U.S. research literature, but also are far from out of control or an "epidemic." Based on a 2016 report of the National Academies, school-based bullying affects 18-31% of U.S. youth overall and cyberbullying 7-15% (see a summary of the report at
  • Not all young people are equally at risk (of cyberbullying or any other risk) – from a lit review by a national Internet safety task force at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center
  • The youth most at risk online are those most at risk offline (Ibid.)
  • A student's psychosocial makeup and home and school environments are better predictors of their online risk or safety than any technology the student uses (Ibid.)
  • The best prevention tool and the major part of bullying prevention is social-emotional learning (SEL),  e.g., Second Step, Yale's Ruler Approach and other evidence-based programs (“Implementing Bullying Prevention Programs in Schools: A How-To Guide”), all found at the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (
  • The secret sauce in many school community solutions are the students; think of them as part of the solution not the problem. They don't like online negativity; most are good kids who sometimes act out, get into arguments, make stupid mistakes, show anger online, etc.; 60% of the incidents school administrators brought to us last year were first reported by students looking for solutions. There are always students who want to help make things better.
  • 80% of students who are bystanders (in online or offline incidents of peer harassment) try to help, according to research by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at University of New Hampshire.
  • The best "tools" for student online safety are cross-functional problem-solving (administrator, counselor, student leaders, IT/media specialist, etc.), a positive school climate and restorative rather punitive responses to bullying and cyberbullying (e.g., San Francisco Unified's district-wide implementation of Restorative Practices--see their video here).
  • Based on this research, parents and educators might consider a more balanced approach to online safety than we saw in the Internet safety field's first 15 years.
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