How to Strengthen Your Social Emotional Digital Discernment with Artificial Intelligence

Teach YR

How to Strengthen Your Social Emotional Digital Discernment with Artificial Intelligence


Nana Boateng is a project producer for Teach YR. She’s a Ghanaian-American poet, educator, and digital storyteller based in Oakland, CA. Before coming to YR Media, she taught 3rd - 12th graders creative writing and how to make podcasts. Nana is dedicated to curating accessible spaces for people to connect, share, and archive their narratives digitally. Her writing has been published in Black Rootedness: 54 Poets from Africa to America, Connotation Press, WVXU, NPR, Sierra Magazine, Toe Good Poetry, and Cliterature Journal. 

[focus - Arts + Culture | Identity  | Tech | Health]


As our nation embraces the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been left to cope with major losses in the economy, learning, and overall community. While we turn to digital spaces to find an emotional equilibrium and help us process, some AI technology has been learning and developing a response to better support us. Content online can be triggering, so it’s important to establish our own digital support networks to strengthen our emotional competence and develop practices to manage our mental health. 

With this learning tool, students will be able to identify strategies for navigating the internet when experiencing bursts of emotion that feel difficult to manage. They’ll test their digital discernment and learn how to curb misinformation. And then they will create a zine that compiles tips for engaging online through a social emotional learning lens to ensure that their experience centers self-awareness and care. These structured classroom activities involve students reading the YR Media youth texts on AI and Grief and Movers & Shakers Series, where we explore emerging young leaders who are leading cultural innovation and equitable change in tech.


This icebreaker can be done out loud in the whole group or in small groups of 3 - 5 participants. You can do as many rounds as you want.

Name Three Things:

Counting can be a helpful strategy to relax from external stressors because it gives your mind something to focus on besides the anxious ideations that might be brewing. Take turns asking each person in the class to name three things related to any category imaginable. 

You might ask someone to name three types of dinosaurs or three things that are green (the possibilities are limitless, but please be community conscious).

The goal of the activity is to affirm each other's creative process and think quickly on the spot, not accuracy. Let’s say someone named three dinosaurs and said, “T-Rex, Barney, and Dr. Dino.”  Their response would be “correct” not because they named three real dinosaurs, but because they thought of three possible responses.

Sample of types of things to ask:

  • Name three original things
  • Name three smooth things
  • Name three things that you always forget
  • Name three things that you always remember 
  • Name three things that are your favorite color
  • Name three continuous things (never ending)
  • Name three things that are never the same
  • Name three things that are flexible
  • Name three things that come in three 

ACTIVITY 1: Strategies for Manual Social Emotional Machine Learning 

Sometimes grief is hard to recognize. We all have our different routines and self-soothing rituals to help us get through a hard time. Whether that’s talking it out with a close friend, going on a long neighborhood walk via google maps, learning a new TikTok dance, or perhaps doom scrolling. We all have our unlimited methods for riding the waves of grief. Sometimes we don’t notice them, but it’s important to catch the patterns so we are better prepared when high tide rolls in.

Nina Roehl discovered that a new filter on TikTok could assist users who were mourning the passing of a loved one, sometimes even reconnect with loved ones they’d never met. 

Listen to: AI and Grief Revisiting Lost Loved Ones on TikTok

DISCUSSION: Nina interviewed Megan Devine, psychotherapist and grief educator, and asked if technology like this can not only avoid causing harm, but actually be a tool for healing? This type of AI created/driven synthetic media can often allow us to immediately acknowledge grief and hold space for it in our lives. 

Ask your students:

  • How has online content influenced the way you process and connect to information? Do you feel like you are aligned with the targeted message? Why or why not?
  • Have you used the photo animation filter on TikTok? How did it feel to connect to the person that was reanimated? If not, do you think technology or social media can help you grieve or heal after losing someone? Why or Why not?
  • How have you curated online feed or content to reflect your identity, interests, and lived experiences?
  • What online spaces or communities have given you the space to process parts of your identity and lived experience? What has made those spaces feel safe and welcoming? How can we make sure more virtual spaces are inclusive and center care.

Part 1: Recognize the Pattern 

Take a moment to do a full body scan assessment. How’s your breathing? What’s racing through your mind? Are you without thought? When was the last time you drank water? Sometimes slowing down and asking yourself a bunch of questions can help you better assess how you’re approaching a conflict or decision. 

Notice what feelings or behaviors are coming up and try to track the patterns. Reflect and discuss:

  • What’s something that you do everyday that you don’t even think about? Who taught you that thing? When have you struggled with it? 
  • What’s something that you know will always get on your nerves? Why?
  • What’s something that you can’t help laughing or smiling about? Why?

Part 2:  Advance Search Filter

While the internet can feel like a void that increases anxieties around self-image, we can better equip ourselves by muting content and refining our feed. Advance search filters allow us to select the type of content we want to see and assess what feels relevant or irrelevant. These filters can detect patterns and trends based on our engagement in order to give specific insight and connect us to helpful resources faster. Select 3 - 5 tweets or social media posts that you’ve come across while doom scrolling and examine how they relate to a social issue or current event.

These might be things that send you further down the search rabbit hole and add a layer of clutter to the brain fog,  whether it’s an urgent call to action or a video of someone cutting a shoe that’s actually a cake. Reflect on how these tweets or social media posts might increase or ease built up stress in our nervous system.

  • Why did you select these tweets/social media posts? How does it make you feel? Is it relevant or irrelevant to a social issue/current event? Why or Why not?
  • What are some initial words that come to mind when you think about this tweet or post? Why? Can you compare this to another tweet/post you've seen?
  • What would you filter out? What wouldn't you filter? Why?

ACTIVITY 2: Deepfake Analysis and Checking Your Social Emotional Bias 

Deepfake tech is a deep learning artificial intelligence that replaces a person in an existing image or video with someone else's likeness. In Detecting Deepfakes With Machine Learning Salma Mayorquin, an AI scientist and solutions architect, shared - with YR Media youth journalist Jadya Buckley - that in order to identify a deepfake they analyze what the face looks like from a sample of images. “We give it a bunch of examples of what a real face looks like and then what a fake face looks like.” Once the general AI model is able to detect the differences it can help recapture images and videos that might have been obstructed by connectivity issues. However, many have been misinformed by how seamless and realistic they look.

Viral deepfakes like Steve Harvey’s face copied and pasted over Megan Thee Stallion’s face during her NPR tiny desk or Nancy Pelosi appearing inebriated while giving a speech have stumped and disturbed millions of online users. These digital masquerades have been an eye-opener of how far the truth can be stretched or manipulated, exacerbated today with AI technology.

In the first season of Movers & Shakers, we learned racial bias can influence how AI learns information to develop a critical discernment. Many of our Movers & Shakers in season two, echoed similar concerns and shared personal experience of why it’s so important that the people most affected by the technology are also the ones making it. 

DISCUSSION: Go to section 3: Race + Bias and listen/read the conversation that each expert shares about navigating AI when there are racial technology biases.  

  • How do we reduce human error and bias in order to connect beyond a person's physical appearance? How can we leverage technology to find communities that align with our interests? What online communities do you belong to?
  • What’s on your social media discovery page? Do you feel as if it represents a wide range of experiences, interests, and perspectives? Why or why not?
  • Is it possible to separate AI from its human creators? At what point is it taking what it’s learning and developing its own understanding? What are things that you’ve learned from online communities that have impacted your irl experiences?

Part 1:  Photo Animation for Emotional Recognition

Individually draw or find an image that represents how you’re currently feeling. Write a caption that represents what you think other people thought you were feeling. 

In pairs or a group of 3 - 4 participants, reflect and discuss:

  • Think about a time when you proved someone’s assumptions wrong or right? How did you feel after? Why?
  • When did someone prove that they were more than what you expected? Why did you have that expectation? 

Part 2: Earworm for Critical Thinking and Tech Literacy

Are you questioning your digital ideations? Listen to the Tropics Mix created by Diana Nucera, a Detroit-based multimedia artist and co-author of “A People’s Guide To AI.” Her guide provides prompts to help ground online users in the constructive ways that technology helps assist them in their day to day life. The prompts help to decentralize misinformation and the overwhelming feelings you might get when scrolling through so much content. It helps you notice and keep track of healthy habits that are connected to your participation online and with AI technology.

Sometimes AI glitches and disrupts the flow of a routine pattern. When this is reported and tracked, it gives AI a better chance to learn more about itself. It improves and strengthens its process. Once committed to muscle memory this can improve our overall experience and mood. Similar to humans, consistent habits can better equip us to move through our grief. 

Maybe you already do these things, like waking up and making your bed or naming three things that made you smile that day. Maybe your tech also does this by creating a photo album of your top moments in the past month. These continuous practices make us more aware of inconsistency in our moods and bodies. 

What’s a phrase, memory, song, recipe, or sound etc. that’s occupied your mind from the moment that you first encountered it? Think about things that always seem to pop up on your screen or send you down rabbit holes online. Maybe it still resonates with you even after it is no longer right in front of you. 

Write 2 - 3 down and explain the significance. Give context to your perspective:

  • How did it make you feel? 
  • Where were you? Who were you with? 
  • What did you notice/learn about yourself?
  • Is there anything you would do over?

Examples from Nucera’s guide to AI:

One morning I noticed my phone created a heartfelt recap of the year with my photos that made me tear up a little.

One time I got an email and my email inbox suggested how I should reply to it.

Part 3: Security Questions

What’s something only you know about yourself that is true? Asking yourself questions helps build your emotional awareness and interpersonal relationship. It can give you more context of how you’re processing and responding in the moment or after the fact. It also helps you understand your growth overtime. 

Your questions could be about your favorite topic that helps you stand out amongst the enthusiasts or a personal fact that only people in your immediate family know about you. Once you think of that thing, write  down how it makes you feel about this knowledge. You will create a three question quiz (it can be multiple choice or short answer) that tests and reminds you of the things that bring you back to yourself. 

  • When you feel your most authentic self, what do you say? 
  • What do you do? Who are you usually around? 
  • Are there sensory details that could take the place of feelings?
    • Ex. Lavender is the immediate scent that comes to mind when I feel the most grounded.  

Example of what your quiz can look like:

Security Question 1: What’s your go to emoji?

Security Question 2: When was the last time you went on a long walk/where in nature?

Security Question 3: Who was the last person who made you laugh?

ACTIVITY 3: Build Your Zine - A Digital Resource Bank for AI SEL 

Now that you’ve taken the time to process it is time to unpack your knowledge! You will take what you learned about how to evade and leverage misinformation, and build your own reservoir of strategies to help you navigate online spaces that might feel dehumanizing and disorienting. You will create a (physical or digital using a slideshow) zine-guide with tips and advice that reflect on how to design virtual spaces that center restorative justice and rest. Let’s put it to practice!

Part 1: Fold, cut, and create your 8-page zine 

You will need 8 ½ x 11 inch printer paper, scissors, and a pencil. This can also be digital if you prefer and you can make an 8-page slide show. To begin, fold your paper in half “hot dog style” or long ways then refold it “hamburger style” or along the width. Take some tips from NPR’s resident zinemaker Malaka Gharib on how to finish your physical zine booklet and learn how others are processing the new realities brought by the pandemic.  

Part 2: Name your AI processing system and upload your content

Think of a title for your social emotional processing system. Create an “info section” and help us learn how you cracked the codes and mastered your digital discernment. 

Take your responses from the activities above and add your 6 - 7  responses to your zine pages. Help others connect to your content by including captions and illustrations. Think of your own questions to pose and reflect on. 

  • What else should we know about you and your digital communities?
  • Who are some digital elders that inform how you show up virtually?
  • What makes those spaces feel welcoming? How have you established and maintained those connections?

Part 3: Author’s bio and reflection

On the last page of your zine, tell us a bit more about who you were before and after you started this process. Get creative, really help put a picture in our mind about your journey:

  • What did you like about this activity? What did you learn about how you processed information online and its impact on you overall? 
  • What did you find most challenging? What’s committed to muscle memory? What will be your approach if you come up against this challenge again? 
  • Having done this activity, is there another topic you’d like to hear your peers' perspectives on? 




  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. 
  •  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically. 


  • ISTE1a Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes. 
  • ISTE1d Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies. 
  • ISTE2a Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.
  • ISTE2d Students manage their personal data to maintain digital privacy and security and are aware of data-collection technology used to track their navigation online. 
  • ISTE3d Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
  • ISTE4a Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems. 
  • ISTE6b Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • ISTE6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences. 

Note: We are grateful for support from the National Science Foundation for YR Media’s reporting and learning tools on artificial intelligence. The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in our content do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.


Teachers, are you excited about the work your students created? As always, if your students love what they created please invite them to join YR Media’s community and pitch their pieces to our editors. And teachers, sign up here to receive email updates when new curriculum tools are published and become a member of our growing teacher network! 

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