Wellesley Centers for Women Partners with Local Middle School to Promote Healthy Social Media Use

A professor works with two middle school female students at computers.
Image credit: Kaitlyn Willis
August 19, 2019

This article originally appeared on the Wellesley Centers for Women website on July 29, 2019.

From YouTube to Instagram to Fortnite, middle schoolers are surrounded by social media and social gaming platforms, but are they using them safely?

The Wellesley Centers for Women teamed up with the Wellesley College computer science department to host a workshop at the Dr. Philip O. Coakley Middle School in Norwood, Mass., from July 15 through July 18, to teach middle schoolers about social media’s impact on their lives and how to use it in a healthy way.

“Early adolescents are particularly vulnerable to behavioral and mental health risks that can be heightened by social media use,” said Linda Charmaraman, a co-leader of the workshop, senior research scientist at WCW, and director of the WCW Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab. “This collaboration allows us to put our research into action, providing tools to support healthier social media use and simultaneously engaging with students, teachers, counselors, and parents while we examine the role of technology in our lives.”

Thirteen sixth- through eighth-graders attended the workshop co-led by Charmaraman and Catherine Delcourt, assistant professor of computer science at Wellesley College. The workshop was funded by the Social Sciences Summer Research Internship Program at Wellesley and the I Am Strong Foundation of Westwood, Mass., which is dedicated to shattering the stigma of teen mental health struggles.

Throughout the workshop, Charmaraman, Delcourt, and Wellesley College students Ashley Kim ’19, Cynthia Serrano Najera ’21, and Payton Vandergriff ’22 engaged participants in discussions on how apps are created and introduced them to coding concepts. Participants also contributed to the design of a research-based app Charmaraman and Delcourt are developing to teach middle schoolers about healthy social media use.

The full story can be found on the Wellesley Centers for Women website.

Photo: Catherine Delcourt, assistant professor of computer science at Wellesley, guides middle school participants through an assignment at the Dr. Philip O. Coakley Middle School in Norwood, Mass.