Stewartville, Minn.—

Tenth-grade health and physical education teacher Michele Van Bibber noticed a disturbing trend of over-sharing personal information on social media and decided to make a creative lesson out of it.

“I think that there is quite a bit of new social media out there and it’s changed in the way students, or even the way adults, expose themselves to it,” said Van Bibber. “I think there has been a big boom like the explosion of Twitter, posting on Facebook, and looking at each other’s pictures on Instagram.”

Van Bibber talked with her students about their social media usage. “I know kids are exposing such private details on the Web,” she said. “The students might also want to be friends with people and sometimes they don’t even know who they are.”

She then launched an experiment with her students’ help. One of them took a picture of her holding a sign that read, “Please share this photo for a class experiment on social media. Write your location in the comments. Thanks!”

Van Bibber and her students talked about what they thought the outcome would be. “I asked [the students], ‘if I post this picture on my personal Facebook page, do you think anyone can see it?'” she said. “One of the students said ‘I didn’t think it would work because she doesn’t have many friends.’”

After posting the picture on Facebook, the class watched its status for three days. It eventually received 47,385 likes, 217,649 comments, and over 351,000 shares.

Van Bibber’s students were surprised at how many people saw the photo. “The kids were taken aback,” she said. “I don’t think they realized how fast the picture could get out there.”

After the results came in, Van Bibber talked with her class about social media safety. “I just wanted them to be a little more cautious of who has access to what they post — what if it got into the wrong hands?” she said. “Also, some decisions that we might not think through now could potentially harm us in future endeavors — like the chances of getting into a specific college, or getting a job.”

Van Bibber believes this is one lesson that definitely made an impact. “I think this made them look back at who was actually following them, and I do think it had an impact,” she said.

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.