How To Help Students Use Social Media (Safely) - With Claire Orange

How To Help Students Use Social Media (Safely) - With Claire Orange

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Many teachers and parents are worried about the effects of social media on their children. Whether it's negative comments, becoming obsessed with friend counts, dealing with trolling or chasing likes, the world of social media is piling up new pressures on our students like never before.

In this week's episode, we speak to Claire Orange, expert and author on social and emotional learning. She explains how social media use is affecting our pupil's emotional development... and shares practical ideas for helping children navigate social media safely.

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Show notes / transcription

Claire Orange  0:00  

So when we get into that mid primary school age, we really do need to be thinking very hard about social media and what our children are exposed to. We need to know the risks. We need to know what's out there. And we need to be on that without challenge and I would say to any parent or teacher, you know, if you're using a social media accounts, a child should never be on their own in isolation an adult needs to be on there with them.

Simon Currigan  0:23  

Hi there. I'm Simon Currigan and welcome to the latest episode of school behaviour secrets. Whereas other educational podcasts dissect important issues with the delicacy of an expert surgeon. This podcast is more like an 18th century barber who turns up to treat your ailments with a jar of leeches, a saw, a bucket and a stick to bite down on, and boy you're gonna need that stick. I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:29  

Hi Simon.

Simon Currigan  1:30  

I'd like to start by asking you a question. According to a research carried out in 2020 what percentage of teenagers said they regularly used Instagram?

Emma Shackleton  1:41  

I'm guessing this would be a really high percentage going off the teenagers that I know I'd say maybe 85%. Even as many as 90%. Go on, then enlighten me. What's the actual percentage of teenagers that regularly use Instagram?

Simon Currigan  1:58  

I believe Instagram is the social media equivalent of crack cocaine. So according to this research by the National Centre for health research, right, a whopping 72% said they used Instagram regularly, but it wasn't the highest social media site which was YouTube, which lots of people forget is a social media site at 85%, which I guess is perhaps less surprising that it's at the top because people use it for videos all the time. And here's a really scary statistic. According to an OfCom  report this year, over half of 12 to 15 year olds have received a negative experience over social media, with the most common being contacted by a stranger.

Emma Shackleton  2:38  

 That's a bit creepy 

Simon Currigan  2:39  

Yeah I know, which all illustrates really why this is such an important topic. And I know it causes a lot of issues in school, which is why our interview today is with Claire Orange, who's an author and expert around the subject of how social media affects our children's development. And in today's interview, she gives us a lot of ideas and strategies for helping our kids use social media more safely.

Emma Shackleton  3:03  

I know that this is an issue that lots of schools are wrestling with right now. If you have a colleague or friend who you think would benefit from hearing this interview, do them a massive favour, use the share button in your podcast app to send them a direct link to this episode. That means that they can hear these ideas and strategies because it might make a real difference to their pupil safety on the internet. And now here's Simon's interview with Claire Orange.

Simon Currigan  3:32  

Today, I'm excited to have Claire Orange on the podcast. She is a multi qualified Child and Adolescent therapist. She's published 16 award winning books on social and emotional learning, and has worked in many settings for 28 years. Claire is a passionate advocate for children being able to experience a happy, safe and protected childhood full of opportunities to build their life resilience skills, and has recently launched an educational children's social media platform. Claire, welcome to the show.

Claire Orange  4:04  

Thank you for having me, Simon.

Simon Currigan  4:06  

So can you tell us about how you got into helping kids navigate social media safely? What made this stand out for you as an important issue?

Claire Orange  4:14  

You know, those 28 years of working with children have really seen an awful lot of change in a very short period of time. So I would say the last five years for me as a therapist, working with families and schools, helping children with their mental health and wellbeing has seen a enormous shift in what's happening for children and how early it's happening in life. So we're seeing a really big change globally of children experiencing anxiety, feeling like they don't belong, all of the factors that we know impinge on children's mental health and well being and we're seeing earlier and earlier presentations of this and this is universal. It doesn't matter what country you're in and the commonality and all of that Is the access to digital life that actually while brains do adapt over time, they can't adapt fast enough to cope with technology. And we're seeing young developing brains really taking the strain and showing us in behaviours related to mental health.

Simon Currigan  5:17  

What is it about social media in particular do you think that's causing these difficulties?

Claire Orange  5:23  

It's an interesting question. I think what we've built is environments that adults can live and flourish in adults can know that online and offline are two very different places with two very different behaviours, they have a greater brain capacity to be able to put that device down, move away from it, and re engage with offline life. Whereas children engaging with social media, it's very busy, it's always on, there's no need to wait for anything, there's immediate gratification, all the stuff that just plays into childhood. So what we've done is we've created an adult environment, we've dropped children in there, who don't have the same level of self control and self regulation. And they've just gobbled it up. And in fact, they've just run away from us, you know, in terms of use,

Simon Currigan  6:16  

And we wouldn't do that in any other aspect of our lives. You know, what we would expose children to in terms of the adult realm, we'd be very, very careful about how we did it or just say absolutely no to certain aspects of adult life.

Claire Orange  6:27  

Absolutely. And there's restrictions and prohibitions around that, you know, you can't go into a store to buy alcohol without showing your ID, but you can put yourself down on Pornhub. without showing ID you just have to say what age you might be,  to allow you access and it's opened and exposed our children to a world well beyond their ability to cope.

Simon Currigan  6:50  

So what common problems do you see families and schools struggling with when they're trying to teach their kids to be safe on social media?

Claire Orange  6:58  

Across the board, what we see schools struggling with and families struggling with is that highly addictive nature of social media. So including in that Simon I'm including gaming in that world. So gaming is a media that is social. For children, it's often excluded, we think about Facebook, and Instagram and Snapchat, but you know, gaming is very social for children as well. It's highly addictive, and it's very well programmed by very clever people to ensure that at the moment where you normally leave that environment that a loot bag is dropped, or some small trinket that keeps you engaged. Now that's great for our children. So schools and families are really struggling because the young people love being in this world, adults love being in this world too. And when they come off, there's a bit of a behavioural fallout for most children, theyre coming off a very high dopamine level in the brain, and they coming back into normal world which, you know, emptying the dishwasher is not wildly exciting for most children.

Simon Currigan  7:57  

As teachers, what are the key strategies and protective behaviours you think we should be equipping our kids with to safely use social media?

Claire Orange  8:07  

Well, these really fit well within the parameters of what we know works with children's mental health. So protective behaviours is very aligned to mental health in the early years of childhood, and that's managing self, managing others making responsible decisions and showing empathy. So those are the really foundation pillars for growing out brain health of the child's the protective behaviours around that the ones that we commonly talk about, like consent that so a child consenting to have the image online to sharing another child's image to the contact that they receive, should I or shouldn't I friend, this person who looks like they really like me, you know, those are the key things that we need to be addressing with our children who are in this massively over exposed world on social media. And then knowing how to protect themselves online from all of the lovely shiny stuff that's put there specifically to draw them in like little moths to the flame. When we wrap out protective behaviours, children know how to manage themselves, they know how to manage others, they can pause before they post and make a responsible decision. And they know how to be a great citizen by showing empathy for others, which is often absent online,

Simon Currigan  9:23  

you bring up an interesting point there because in terms of empathy, if you say something unpleasant to someone face to face, you get to see their reaction and you feel that inside yourself and you kind of see the damage that you've done. But if you're trolling someone on social media, you don't really see the impact of your actions. And that's going to impact on how our kids learn about saying unkind things to other people and the effect that's going to have. 

Claire Orange  9:48  

It's so very true. You know, you think right from the moment that we all hold our precious little babies, we share eye contact with them. We have an animated face. You know, when they see we have a sad face. And they learning to read human emotion of this big dial that we've got, you know, that we put forward to our child, and they can see our body, they can hear our tone of voice. So right from the very earliest moments in, in human brains, it's called serve and return. So I put something out, and your brain captures that, and then learns how to respond to it. And that's that serve and return. It's a really amazing part of human neurology that lights up. And yet, there's none of it in the online world. And in fact, what we're modelling and I'll use that global way to children online, when you see adults behaving exceptionally poorly. So you just need to look at any COVID based discussion at the moment to see everyone come out and flay everyone else, regardless of your opinion or point of view, you've got to bring someone down, you've got to shame them, or you've got to be highly judgmental, and it kind of becomes a bit of a crown of achievement. And that's what we're exposing our children to. But actually, their brains aren't wired for that that's not how human brains learn.

Simon Currigan  11:04  

No we're not learning about human relationships, are we? And you made a really interesting point as well about consent. And we've got to ask questions about whether children can meaningfully give consent because do they understand what might happen to their photos? Do they understand what might happen to their comments and the things that they're sharing online? Do they have the life experience to be able to give informed consent in terms of social media? And what happens next?

Claire Orange  11:28  

I think like anything, developmentally, there's always a really long run up to that level, which is quite a cognitively driven concept. I've got to think about it, I've got to think, do I or don't I want my image? What will happen if that gets shared? So there's a lot that you have to think about, and have this ability to do the consequential thinking that's a long developing skill, but what we do know is that you can frame consent from early by when you say to your child, would you like to give and he made this a cuddle? And your child says no, is that you don't then shove your child into the arms of Auntie Mavis, who loves your child, that your child has said no. And when we honour that in the child, and we say, Well, if you don't feel like it today, maybe you can just give Auntie Mavis a big smile, then we start to teach consent. So consent is a continuum. It starts early in actions. And it also starts with parents and teachers, what we are modelling you know, the average child, Simon has 5000 images of themselves posted online by their fifth birthday, no one has thought to give that child or ask that child for their consent, neither parent nor teacher, and those images then become the property of the social media platform. So I believe as parents consent really starts by deciding how much you're going to post of your child's tantrum online, and being very honourable and respectful about that, because then we teach consent that later, our children actually have a template for they've got a foundation for but if we don't do that, in their early childhood, we can't then teach it when they 12. And of

Simon Currigan  13:09  

course, another aspect to this is if you or I were younger, before social media before the internet, if we had a bad day, or someone was picking on us, or bullying us, when we got home, we could get away from that and shut the door and escape from it. But it's 24 seven, it's hard to escape from a phone that's ping, ping, ping, ping, ping it is

Claire Orange  13:27  

and you know, I think across the world that's what we look at in terms of campaigning is hell always on the world of social media is for our children and how we are all it's a bit like Pavlov's dogs. If anyone's heard about Pavlov's dogs, you know, you ring the bell and the dog starts to salivate because before you'd pay ringing the bell with putting the food down there you can just ring the bell and the dog thinks there's food and starts to salivate. So we can train behaviour, even as adults are all Pavlov's dog, we see that email notification pop up. And even in a meeting, you want to have a little look because you know, you've been well trained to look at that notification, and have children all the beings and the beats. If they don't do it, then they get that FOMO that fear of missing out like oh, no, you know, the group chat will go on. And I won't know what the in joke was. And maybe they'll talk about me and I won't know what the secret is. And they won't share that picture and all that stuff. So our children are very well trained to respond to all the beeps and beings, which means that brains that are young and developing that need rest, and they need relaxation time they need time to think before they say which you and I got we'd go home guy hate Mary, she's the worst person in the world. But by tomorrow, you kind of got over it a bit and you didn't say all the main things you plan to say to Mary on the bus, you know, our kids now just spew them out in a very unprocessed way. And that just causes the online space to be a very fraught emotional space for children.

Simon Currigan  15:00  

I just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in our inner circle programme. The inner circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos, resources and behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole classroom, setting out your classroom environment for success, resetting behaviour with tricky classes, and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions step by step, just like Netflix, you can turn an inner circle subscription on or off whenever you need to. With no minimum contract policy, you can now get your first seven days of inner circle for just one pound. Get the behaviour answers and you've been looking forward today with inner circle visit to And click on the inner circle picture near the top of the homepage for more information. The social media sites do have minimum age limits, which you know, I suspect largely ignored. So at what age should we start in terms of training our kids that have formerly used Facebook Instagram sites?

Claire Orange  16:30  

Well, they do have the age limits and they very loose 80% of 12 year olds already have two or more social media accounts. So that horse is definitely bolted from the stable being that most of the social media is a 13 plus recommendation, which is not really about protecting our children. It's about making sure our children are old enough to put advertising materials in front of legally. So it's not about protecting our kids, it's about them making money. So when we're talking about what age we really know that a lot of children have their own social media at quite a young age. So utilising that very early in childhood. Mostly, it's used for entertainment children and watching other children, unwrapping gifts, what is up with that they watching endless cat videos, they sharing stuff with friends, it's funny and entertaining, that does shift at about eight developmentally, children get into much more social based interactions. And there's a lot of social currency and status. So when we get into that mid primary school age, we really do need to be thinking very hard about social media, and what our children are exposed to, we need to know the risks, we need to know what's out there. And we need to be on that without challenge. And I would say to any parent or teacher, you know, if you're using a social media account, a child should never be on there in isolation and adult needs to be on there with them. The

Simon Currigan  17:55  

time to get a map is before you head into the woods, I believe is the same indeed. What do you believe is the best way of engaging children in those kinds of activities. So they go on to use those skills independently.

Claire Orange  18:06  

In the very early days of children being on a data enabled device, I would say that protection comes around being on there with your child. And then from there moving out, it does need to be experiential. So I'm pretty sure that no one has ever learned to drive a car by being given the worksheet and you tick all the boxes about which side of the road you're going to drive on how you're going to hold your hands and you go right nailed it. Now, I will drive a vehicle, we don't do that we need to do more experiential based training of children in our highly experiential environment. So from when children are on or showing interest in social media, which is usually in that mid primary age, that's where we need to be doing lots of experiential based learning either by showing them out on social media pointing out poor empathy, bad decision making, trolling, grooming, cyberbullying, the stuff that you and I would see every day online, so we can give them the experience with us. But when they're on, then we need to be making sure that we're not just setting them free, we wouldn't just set them free wouldn't show them a swimming pool and say shallow and deep and see how you go, we would do more than that we would train the child would put them with floaties, we would give them swimming lessons, we're getting the pool with them, then we'd sit on the edge very much like with that with social media, you have to experience it. But it has to be a graduated exposure where the child is building their own skills.

Simon Currigan  19:36  

Your company has a really interesting approach that kind of builds on what you've just said about teaching kids to be safe on social media. Can you tell us about the approach that you've taken and the systems that you've built? And the

Claire Orange  19:47  

approach that we've taken is when children are on social media, they are on a range of applications, but they're using a core set of skills wherever they are to protect themselves to be Great digital citizens. So what we've done then is to build children's social media. Now I'm from that mid Primary School range upwards to the end of primary school. So it is alive and experiential, social media like environment, it's kept safe within the school. So children go on within their class, they're able to use a main message board, they're able to chat privately as well. They can play games, there's all sorts of normal social media stuff on the platform, but we've overlaid artificial intelligence that analyses and moderates every picture in every word that the child puts up, so should they sway be racist, exclude someone use hate speech, we can catch and moderate that if they put an image up that shows their school logo, if they put an image up with someone else without asking for consent to post that photo. If they expose too much skin, we then direct the child towards the learning content, which is usually a 92nd animation, and the child then goes off to watch why they might not sway so there might be allowed to do it in their home. But why wouldn't you do it online, and we immerse that child in that experience. So we call those strikes. So they AI gives the child a strike, and a little carrot tickles. Digi social pops up. And Digi gives them a bit of a warning and says, Hey, whoa, you know how to behave better than that? Would you like to do some learning or would you like to go back to the platform, on the third strike, the child has to watch the animation, they have no choice. But in addition to that, so that's very much the in the moment stuff the child is doing. We know that children, he also need to know about eye health, for example. So by 2030 myopia is predicted to be the greatest health problem that we will face across our nations. And that's because we sit looking at screens and not stretching out those eye muscles, we can teach children about that, about how to stretch out and exercise the eye muscles, we can teach them the value of going outside and having some green time, we can also teach them right up at the top about clickbait about being groomed about being trolled about watching inappropriate content and what that does to your brain. So obviously, we have to piecemeal that onto the platform. So we call those challenges the platform auto launches, though, so it might put some click bait up for you, Simon and say want to see the great white shark ate the legs off a man, which pretty much every child in Australia, at least for a low tech watch that, but that exposure to graphic content obviously changes the way the child's brain works, it increases their fear responses. So we then if the child goes Yep, and they click the button that's called click bait. If it says one a summer body that looks just like this. And there's a gorgeous teenage girls, we put them into the clickbait tutorial that might be about body image, it might be about graphic content, it might be about highly sexualized content. But all of that is written up against all of the different national curriculums and protective behaviours, guidelines. So we're only working well within children's age groups. So there's just every keystroke on Digi social, a child has been cheated by the platform while they play with their friends to make safe and sensible choices online.

Simon Currigan  23:13  

So it's a protected environment where kids can learn about social media that actually responds to their choices and educates them maybe to a better way of using social media.

Claire Orange  23:25  

Absolutely. So it's really recall of being safe, civil and savvy online. So when children go on, they go into this very safe container. There's no permanent digital footprint. At the end of the year, we just use the data at a population level about how children have behaved, but there's no identifying data that's maintained on the platform. So they if they go to make a mistake, they get to make a big that's it. It's not going into their future. And they've done this learning in an environment that supports them on every keystroke, and how can they access it? It's based as a school subscription. So we have schools in at the moment Australia, New Zealand, China, and the UK using Digi social, they subscribe their key stage to students to the platform. And when they get the subscription. There's a parent platform. So parents get to watch video based content on all aspects of their own and their children's cyber use. And educators get their own platform as well where they get to see everything that's happening and they get lots of other educational options for children. So it's a subscription based model, but within a school so we can

Simon Currigan  24:34  

protect children outcome. listeners, find out more about your platform by heading to

Claire Orange  24:38  

the Digi social website. So it's Digi and we've gone all tricky and funky because we're living in the 21st century so it's d i g II social. So Digi social, and you can just hop on there. There's lesson plans to download and you can find out more about the platform that offerings and how to subscribe.

Simon Currigan  24:58  

I will drop a direct link Today in the show notes, if you're a teacher or a parent listening to this podcast, and you've got concerns about your child using social media, what's the first practical step you can take today to start helping them be more safe education,

Claire Orange  25:13  

above ignorance. You know, I think as many years as I've worked, we can put money into a problem, we can ignore a problem we can prohibit, which never works with children, or anyone, the only time we ever get systemic change and sustainable change is to educate. So I would say, open your eyes, it is a fact that worldwide in our Western countries, and by the age of 12 25% of boys are regularly accessing pornographic content. That's a fact. So that's not being hysterical. What we can do is we can prevent lasting harm by educating the child rather than trying to filter out all of that content, because that's never going to happen. There's too much money in that. But we can educate the child to make great choices about what they doing online. So I would say for anyone concerned about what's happening, it's a ghastly thing to have to talk about some of the things that children bring into school, from the online space, educate, open your eyes, we're living in the 21st century, this stuff pans and kills our children. So get real and start educating kids.

Simon Currigan  26:21  

And finally, we ask this of all our guests who is the key figure that's influenced you, or what is the key book that you've read that has had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids,

Claire Orange  26:33  

I'm probably going to point to a website that's got an awful lot of material that I really like. So it's called castle, which is the collaborative for academic, social and emotional learning. And there are amazing people on there like Daniel Goleman. So reading the work of Daniel Goleman is life changing, when you're looking at putting the child's well being at the centre of everything we do, it doesn't matter how talented they are on the sports field or in the classroom. If a child is unhappy, if a child is disconnected and doesn't belong, none of those things matter anymore. So the castle website has got so many resources for parents and for teachers, there's always new learning going up. And it is certainly the greatest source of my learning. And my inspiration

Simon Currigan  27:18  

that's really useful. And I'm sure our listeners will follow up on that. Thanks for being on the show. You've covered lots of useful strategies and ideas. And we're super excited to have had you here. Thank you very much.

Claire Orange  27:28  

Thank you so much for having me, son.

Emma Shackleton  27:30  

So there are lots of ideas there that teachers and parents could start acting on straightaway.

Simon Currigan  27:37  

And don't forget, if you want a toolbox full of effective ideas and strategies for working with challenging behaviour in school, whether that's the behaviour of individual classes or about the needs of a particular student, our inner circle has got you covered,

Emma Shackleton  27:51  

it now contains over 30 Yes, 30 deep dive resources on a range of behaviour and sem haitch topics. Plus it's got a searchable database you can use to find behaviour strategies, we call that behaviour tactics. So if you're struggling to support a pupil with sensory needs, say, all you have to do is type sensory needs into the behaviour tactic search bar, and you'll get a selection of relevant videos where we talk you through strategies related to sensory needs, it feels a bit like having a behaviour specialist on call 24 seven.

Simon Currigan  28:29  

And the best thing in a circle comes with a seven day free trial. And just like that flex you can turn it on or off at any time. So you stay in control, visit beacon score support today and click on the inner circle picture to find out more.

Emma Shackleton  28:43  

Next week we've got an interview with Helen Akali kowski. From the charity our time, she's going to be talking about children affected not by their own mental health issues brought by the mental health of their parents. And as a result, how many kids find themselves in the role of care for the adult. instead of the other way around, we're going to look at how to identify those students and offer them the emotional support they need to meet their full potential in school. That's a really important interview that's relevant to every school and teacher no matter where you are, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Simon Currigan  29:23  

To make sure you hear it, open up your podcast app right now and press the subscribe button or the Follow button as it's now called in Apple podcasts. And your app will automatically download each and every new episode as it's released so you don't miss a thing. And as a thank you, it might be nice to serve your podcast app a tiny buttered Tea Cake as a thank you served on a tiny plate with a tiny paper doily maybe fashion by tiny and craftspersons you could lose it in from your back garden with a sugar cube. I'm sorry - I think I've slipped into a fever dream.

Emma Shackleton  29:53  

So if you enjoyed this episode, remember Spread the Love, share it with three friends or colleagues who you think would enjoy too, or leave us an honest rating and review on Apple podcast that helps other teachers just like you to find the show. That's all we've got time for today. I hope you have a brilliant week. I will see you in the next episode. Bye for now

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)