Help Teens Establish a Positive Online Presence

October 19, 2016
Stephanie Trautman
Classroom teacher
Detroit Country Day School
Beverly Hills, MI
CATEGORIES Digital Citizenship, Students

In a world filled with digital communication, how do we teach our digital citizens to use social media wisely? Parents are frequently nervous to talk to kids about online safety, relying on the schools to cover it. Teachers, therefore, are often the default catalysts for change as we educate teens on how to use social media: Educate them to become savvy social-media users. Educate them to develop into savvy consumers. Educate them to make positive choices. But have you ever thought about teaching students to flip social media on its head? What could your students do to use social media as a driving force for good?

Finding a starting point for using social media as a driving force for good is simple: It’s important that, as educators, we keep positive social-media habits a constant topic of discussion in the classroom. Talk to students about representing their true selves online, making sure whatever they post is something they’d be proud to represent them in person. Urge students to use social-media outlets (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube) to showcase their academic work, athletic pursuits, and community-service projects. This will make an impact on how peers, adults, and, quite possibly, colleges view them.

In school, teachers can partner with students, making sure students understand how to keep their social-media profiles as safe as possible (no location or last names should be used). A discussion with students surrounding the power of positivity and intention, and how social media can be used for good, is an important conversation to have. Why not have teens create “brands” for themselves via their online presence? At school and in the media, students have heard a multitude of stories regarding online bullying, but they may not have heard stories about social media being used positively to promote people for the good they do.

Some ways students can intentionally showcase themselves using social media include:


Teens can use LinkedIn as a college resume, which they build throughout high school. Fun fact: The age restriction on LinkedIn was recently lowered to 13. 

  • Share a community service project they’re proud of.
  • Showcase their internships.
  • Spotlight awards, scholarships, or special recognitions.
  • Reflect on personal strengths and skills mastered.
  • Endorse or recommend friends on LinkedIn and ask them to do the same.

It's not just for celebrity gossip and sharing selfies. Teens can harness the power of Twitter to showcase their great work and get a jump on college admissions. 

  • Tweet a meaningful article.
  • Think about who they follow. Follow positive people, groups, and colleges they're interested in.
  • Tweet powerful images that move them, inspire them, and show who they are.
  • Tweet and engage with authors and colleges.
  • Get the attention of colleges they want to apply to by tweeting the admissions teams.
YouTube or Vimeo 

The world's a stage with so much of our lives captured on video. Encourage teens to highlight their best performances.

  • Become a tutorial sensation: Create how-to videos for other students to use.
  • Share a video that showcases their talents in
    • an academic competition;
    • a stellar sports competition;
    • a community service project.
  • Participate in a local high school TEDx conference and share their impressive work!

The possibilities for showcasing talents on social-media platforms are endless, but the main message we as teachers must get across to students is that posting online should be intentional and convey a positive message.


Photo: "Second Screen Wetten dass app on an iPad Mini" by Primus Inter Pares. Used under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

Photo: "Lewes v Cray Wanderers FAT Oct 11" by James Boyes. Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 License.