Social Media - Tips for Adapting Healthy Relationship Programs

During the “We Aren’t Dating Until it’s Facebook Official” workshop, it became clear that many program practitioners who work with teens want to learn how to engage with social media.

Through the workshop discussion, we identified common ways in which gender-based violence is perpetuated on-line and how teens interact on Facebook.

We also generated numerous ideas for adapting youth programs to consider the on-line lives of teens:

1. Speak their language - use social media to engage and educate youth

  • Monitor on-line chats and ensure on-line program resources (including social media sites) are properly used  
  • Programs can use virtual keystone clubs (positive youth groups) to engage on-line youth discussion in a constructive manner
  • Use on-line resources to educate youth - MTV’s athinline.org is one example of a progressive and youth-focused approach to education and prevention

2. Involve youth in finding solutions

  • Incorporate a youth perspective in programming - teach youth they have the right to disengage or not engage when things are posted about them
  • Raise awareness of rights and responsibilities, as well as policies and laws. Need to figure out how to make this cool too!
  • Increase knowledge and understanding of on-line security settings – dedicate a Facebook page to internet security and training and have youth practically adjust settings and test out differences
  • Create a specific Facebook page dedicated to educating on and preventing internet violence and cyberbullying or gender-based violence. Youth can have a productive role in updating it, adding content and starting discussions
  • Remove problem technology – allow for a technology-free space in programming
  • Encourage youth to Google themselves to learn what people can find out

3. Directly confront offensive or abusive behaviour

  • In a group setting, you can read Facebook pages with derogatory comments out loud to personalize them
  • Hold the individuals accountable – don’t accept ‘it’s just a joke’ or ‘just Facebook’
  • Have youth discuss how on-line scenarios of bullying or violence would translate into the real world. You can even incorporate role playing here

4. Stay educated and on top of trends

  • Keep updating your materials; stay up to date with the latest trends
  • Healthy relationships with ourselves is the best cure and first step - ensure teens have started by ensuring their own Facebook doesn’t exploit themselves or reveal too much
  • Include current resources for youth

5. Advocate and think critically about change (some raised ideas include:)

  • Petition or complain to Facebook for better regulation (e.g. key words could trigger content bans)
  • Improve regulations and filters to get rid of gender-violent messages (target specific pages)
  • Bulk up security and provide education around Ads on the side of Facebook - there should be something related to violence too! Advertise cyberbullying and what this does. (e.g. 10 ways to get slim! How about 10 ways to stop cyberbullying?) [This example was the final comment for the session and received rapturous applause!]