Key Research

“Likes vs. Learning: The Real Cost of Social Media for Schools,” The American Federation of Teachers

Key Points:

  • Dealing with social media-related issues detracts from the primary mission of our schools, which is to educate our children
  • School districts have borne increased costs and expenses in response to the impacts of social media and its role in the youth mental health crisis
  • Social Media platforms are being called on to leverage their expertise and create the necessary guardrails that will de-proliferate the harms their products have wrought among young people

LiveMore ScreenLess’ Summary

School districts across the country are finding their resources stretched increasingly thin as they attempt to respond to the impacts of social media on student learning and wellbeing. A recent report from the American Federation of Teachers* amplifies the call for social media to implement the safety features needed to protect the young people who use their platforms.

The youth mental health crisis has required district budgets to make room for counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other specialized personnel. Student participation in online “challenges” have yielded damages and threats to school property, staff, and students that range from disruptive to downright dangerous (and in some cases, even deadly). All of this undermines the capacity for schools to successfully educate their students, requiring teachers to diverge from normal lesson plans to educate students about social media, and divert time and resources to notify families of problematic phone use and address disruptive student behavior.

Collective action can exert pressure on social media platforms to reckon with their complicity. While California recently passed an Age-Appropriate Design code modeled after those implemented within the U.K. and the European Union, U.S. legislation has not moved swiftly enough to meet the plight of America’s children and schools. A growing number of school districts are taking action by filing lawsuits against numerous social media platforms, calling them to task for their role in the youth mental health crisis. 

The authors of this report outline 5 principles for platform change that should direct Social Media platforms in leveraging their expertise and amend their business models to  prioritize and protect student safety and privacy.


*in partnership with the American Psychological Association, Design It For Us, Fairplay, and ParentsTogether

Likes vs. Learning: The Real Cost of Social Media for Schools. The American Federation of Teachers, 2023.

Topics: Educator Resources , Mental Health , Social Media , Youth Advocacy