Social Institute Founder Laura Tierney


Laura Tierney, founder of the Social Institute for youth and social media, discusses the perils of smartphones as a gift for tweens. 

Jim Brickman: So Christmas and Holiday wish lists are pouring in to Santa’s workshop, right? But I know what is on your tween’s heart, if you have one— a smartphone! A smartphone. But the question is, are you ready for your kid to be connected like that? Well, we’re about to find out the answer. We have the founder of the Social Institute Laura Tierney [giving us a] how-to guide. Hi Laura.

Laura Tierney: Thanks for having me!

JB: Where do we even begin? How do we know when a kid is old enough to have a smartphone?

LT: You probably wouldn’t be surprised, that is the number one question we hear.

JB: Oh, I bet! Cause your kids are saying, well this friend has one, this friend has one, why can’t I have one?

LT: Right, it’s like 100% peer pressure when you are a tween these days, so there is no magic answer, because, you know, you and I don’t necessarily know a parent’s child, they know them better. We can’t say that the set age is 13 or 12, it’s really when you’re ready to manage that as a parent and when you’re ready to lean in and coach them. That could be twelve years old, that could be thirteen years old.

JB: But it is challenging, cause even if you say yes, how do you prevent them becoming addicted to the phone, or having that behavior?

LT: When we hear that parents are considering getting a phone for their child, we recommend really talking to their child in advance of getting a phone about the standards with this device. How often would you huddle as a family? What apps would you be able to download, what’s that process? But having that conversation in advance— don’t just surprise them with a phone for the holidays, really talk to them in advance: why do they want one?

JB: That’s really good stuff, and the big point you made is that it’s not the same as a toy where you give a gift for Christmas, like, “surprise, it’s a phone!” phones are not really toys. Some really great ideas from the founder of the Social Institute, Laura Tierney!

More on Laura Tierney

Laura Tierney Tweens SmartphonesCombining her standout sports leadership experience with her career managing social media for world-class brands, Laura is driven to reinvent the conversation around teens and social media. She bridges the gap between adults and teens as one of the nation’s leading pioneers in positive social media education.

Before founding The Social Institute, Laura served as Social Media Director at the award-winning advertising agency McKinney, leading social media strategy for national and international brands. Earlier in her career, Laura helped ESPN use social media to launch espnW and inspire millions of women and girls who love sports. She has developed social strategies and campaigns for leading brands including Duke Men’s Basketball, Nike, Under Armour, Disney, Toyota, Travelocity and Oakley.

Laura is an unshakable optimist and a competitive athlete at heart. She was a student-athlete at Duke University, majoring in sociology and journalism, and became a 4-time Duke All-American, 2-time team captain, and Duke Athlete of the Decade for field hockey. During her time at Duke, she played with the U.S. Women’s Junior National Field Hockey Team, representing the United States at home and abroad.

Today, Laura is playing on behalf of students to equip them with skills, plays, and values that embody their daily digital needs. Through her work with The Social Institute, students now have the chance to win at the world’s largest game: social media.

More on The Social Institute

Founded by Duke athlete and social media expert Laura Tierney, The Social Institute works with schoolsparents and leaders, teaching students positive ways to handle one of the biggest drivers of their social development: social media. By reinforcing character and leadership strengths like empathy, integrity, and teamwork, and by teaching teens and their role models to be their best selves on all platforms, we help teens win the game of social media. 👊 🏆With backgrounds in world-class athletics, marketing, and social media management, our team stays on the front lines of social media and works with forward-thinking institutions. Our partners include Ravenscroft School, Oldfields School, Norfolk Academy, Cary Academy, U.S. Olympic athletes, Duke Men’s Basketball, The Women’s Sports Foundation, and other leading organizations around the nation.We offer various services, including one-of-a-kind speeches, interactive workshops, school curriculum, brand consulting, and a digital educational platform for parents — The Social Locker Room.
Alicia Witt

Alicia Witt

Actor and singer-songwriter Alicia Witt has been acting since the age of 7 when she made her film debut in David Lynch’s sci-fi classic Dune. Alicia’s music has been described as ‘sharply personal, boldly melodic pop originals in the Carole King/Billy Joel vein’ and ‘touching lost-and-found love ballads’.



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