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Go Positive: Social Institute's Laura Tierney Helps Heathwood Students, Families Navigate Social Media

Monday, November 13, 2017

When we use social media, we’re connecting with 2.5 billion people worldwide. So what are we communicating about ourselves to all those people?

That was one of the fundamental questions social media expert Laura Tierney posed to Heathwood Middle School and Upper School students when she visited campus on October 30 and 31.

Tierney, a former ad executive who founded The Social Institute ( to help students develop a positive social media presence, also spoke to Heathwood parents and faculty about the realities of teen social media usage these days and about how to help their kids succeed in the social media arena.

Starting from the premise that while it can be abused, it can also serve as a microphone through with to be heard in very positive ways, Tierney proposed that typical conversations between adults and teens about social media, which tend to accentuate the negative and be filled with warnings about what not to do, are not as productive as they could be. Given that social media is a pervasive part of students’ lives and we’re unlikely to be able to change that, she proposed, parents and teachers will accomplish more by working with teens to take their social media usage in the right direction than they will by simply trying to restrict and police usage.

So what does a more positive approach look like? The Social Institute advises teens—and the adults in their lives—to follow six core social standards:

  • Be true to who you are, especially to the best version of yourself, rather than chasing likes and comments.
  • Protect your privacy.
  • Be supportive of others in your online communities—back up anyone who you see being cyberbullied.
  • Strike a reasonable balance between social media time and all the other important things in your life—school, family, chores, activities.
  • Surround yourself with people (online and offline) who support you and encourage you to be who you are
  • Use your online voice for good.

Tierney also recommends that parents and teens alike sign a family social media agreement that holds them all to the same standards and helps them all find a healthy balance between social media and other aspects of their lives.

The Social Institute has developed an online resource called the Social Locker Room ( to help parents and teens navigate the ever-changing world of social media with updates about the latest channels, apps, and trends, expert advice about how to guide teens toward a positive online life, and more.