The Parents & Guardians Guide to Social Media TestDrive

What is Social Media TestDrive and how can it help my kids understand social media?

Social media sites are where life happens for many of today's young people, so it's important to teach them to use these sites safely and effectively. There are lots of high-quality curricula meant to teach good social media use skills. However, there aren't currently ways for kids who are too young to have social media accounts of their own to practice these skills in a safe environment.

What is Social Media TestDrive?

TestDrive is a platform created by researchers in the Cornell University Social Media Lab, in collaboration with the Program for Research in Youth Development and Engagement and New York State 4-H educators. Like a driving simulator for young people learning to drive for the first time, TestDrive is a safe social media simulation that lets young people practice the skills they learn in the classroom. It looks and feels like a real social media site, but instead of being populated by strangers from all over the world, all of the other users are “bots” pre-programmed by the site's creators. Young people can practice interacting with other “users” and their posts without worrying about "stranger danger". They can also practice setting their privacy settings, making their own posts, and other important social media skills without worrying about the consequences of getting things wrong.

How does a TestDrive lesson work?

Each TestDrive module is designed to teach a specific social media skill: privacy settings, smart self-presentation, stopping cyberbullying, and information literacy, to name a few. Each module starts with a classroom lesson delivered by an educator or facilitator, with lesson content adapted from Common Sense Media, Harvard University's Youth and Media Program, and Fordham University's Privacy Educators Program. After each brief lesson, students participate in an interactive activity on the TestDrive platform that allows them to put the lesson into action. A group discussion and reflection activity wraps up each module.

What else do I need to know?

We encourage you keep the conversation about safe social media use going! Young people's social media use experiences can differ dramatically, and we encourage you to learn along with your child.