Lauren Koller


Spring 2021


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Jana Lo Bello Miller

Content Expert

Madeleine Israelson


The research question for my capstone project is: How can social and emotional learning (SEL) be used as a tool in the classroom to address and combat the toxicity stemming from adolescent social media usage? I have designed a student curriculum grounded in SEL methods titled “Digital Life Studies” to be implemented in middle level settings during advisory periods. Researchers and educators alike have observed that an increasing amount of students in middle level settings are gaining access to technology that connects them to the internet. A survey conducted by Common Sense Media revealed that 81% of teenagers (defined as ages 13-17) use social media apps. This striking data exemplifies the high frequency of social media usage and access to technology. Additionally, the research revealed that social media platforms heavily influence students’ perception about themselves. Regarding their social media use, 20% reported feeling more confident, 21% reported feeling more popular, and 25% reported feeling less lonely (Rideout & Robb, 2018). These findings confirmed that social media is powerful. Not only is it growing in popularity, but it is also playing a prominent role in driving students’ self-perceptions and emotions. The introduction of social media platforms has created a new digital dimension, where participation demands the posting of heavily edited content and the portrayal of a perfect life. For middle level students today, social media and reality have become closely intertwined, blurred together with no clear line as to where one ends and the next begins. It is essential that our tech-savvy tweens are equipped with the necessary tools to be mindful and responsible social media users. The Digital Life Studies curriculum provides an opportunity for students to learn about positive online behaviors for social media use, as well as to develop an awareness of potential risk factors associated with these sites. These lessons will address eight common themes of social media usage: online identity, maintaining balance between online and offline activity, cyberbullying, the highlight reel, the fear of missing out (FOMO), self-esteem and the perfect image, digital footprint, and digital dangers.

Project Type



Curriculum, Social and Emotional Learning








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