Digital Survival Skills Module 1: My Media Environment

Task 3: Who Controls Your Feed?

Students investigate how social media platforms make money off our attention and how that business model affects what the platforms display in our feeds, from targeted ads and recommended pages to posts from friends and family.

Materials: Student Handout

1. Students use the Student Handout to write individually or turn and talk to respond to the question: What are some of the pros and cons of social media?

2. Students watch part of Social Media, the 10th episode of the Crash Course “Navigating Digital Information” (watch 2:34–8:27) and answer the following prompts on the Student Handout individually or in pairs:

  • I was surprised or interested to learn that…
  • We don’t have to pay to use social media because…
  • Social media companies need to keep us engaged because…
  • Social media companies keep us engaged by….

3. Students investigate how their most-used platform decides what to display in their feed and what data it collects by researching the following questions on the Student Handout:

  • Who owns this platform?
  • How does this platform decide what posts to display in your feed?
    • Does it display all posts from people you’re following, or do they choose which ones to highlight in your feed?
    • How does it order posts? Chronologically? If not, how does it decide the order? Do you get a choice in the order, for example, can you choose to display posts chronologically if that’s not the default?
  • How does this platform decide what ads to show you?
    • Does it have targeted ads? (Ads selected just for people like you)
    • Does it let you view the information it uses about you to target ads?
    • Does it let you turn off targeted ads?
  • What data does the platform collect on you? What does it do with this data?

4. Students get together with others that researched their platform to compare findings. Then each group shares out to the class. Student or teacher records answers. Optional: class votes on which platform has the best and worst policies.