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Social media 'cliff-edge': Nine ways for schools to help pupils cope

The children's commissioner has called on schools to offer pupils effective digital-literacy lessons. Here is what they can do

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The children's commissioner has called on schools to offer pupils effective digital-literacy lessons. Here is what they can do

In a report published today, the children’s commissioner has said that pupils are starting secondary school unprepared for a social-media “cliff edge” that causes their world to "explode".

Anne Longfield calls on schools should teach digital literacy and online resilience to pupils. 

Her report recommends that schools should:  

  1. Be aware that lessons in online safety, given to primary pupils, are insufficient to prepare children for the transition to secondary school.  
  2. Prioritise lessons in digital literacy and online resilience during Years 6 and 7. “This is the age at which social media can begin to dominate day-to-day life,” the report states.  
  3. Digital-literacy lessons must be applicable to children’s everyday experiences, so that pupils can apply them in different contexts. For example, many are aware that they need to “be yourself”, while also adapting their online behaviour in order to gain social approval.  
  4. Digital-literacy lessons should develop children’s critical awareness of the images presented on social media, whether by friends, celebrities or brands.  
  5. Pupils should be able to distinguish between curated or digitally altered images and people’s real lives.  
  6. Pupils should be taught about the algorithms and other techniques used by social-media platforms in order to influence what children see online and to encourage them to spend more and more time on that platform.  
  7. Children should be taught to recognise the power of peer pressure on social media, along with techniques to help them switch off.  
  8. Teachers should incorporate awareness of the subtle impacts that social-media can have on pupils’ wellbeing into lessons about online resilience.  
  9. Include a peer-to-peer element in digital-literacy education. This would provide pupils with an accessible and relevant way to learn about life online.  

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