This is the second post in a blog series written by Brooke Giles, freshman at the University of Maryland, giving her perspective on current education news and events.
Social media is a huge aspect of many American teenagers’ lives. It’s a place to express their feelings, share photos of milestone moments, and keep in touch with friends.
Unfortunately, social media sites also have to combat one of the biggest threats for kids today: cyber bullying. Every social media platform has a horror story involving bullying; in many cases, the parents had no clue about what was going on. In 2005, the Center for Disease Control found that 9% of youths had admitted to being cyber bullied. The CDC also noted that there were a large majority of kids that didn’t come forward with this information. This led to more parents logging on to silently monitor their children, but there was also a push for schools to get involved, too.
CNN reports that several high schools have hired security firms to monitor students’ online profiles. While controversial, the steps have been successful, already preventing students from self-harm. In addition to being able to catch cyber bullying, which is still a problem with 20% of students reporting being bullied online, the school can also get reports on students that may be participating in at-risk behaviors. Some believe that school systems can work together with students to make students more comfortable expressing concerns with adults.
It’s not uncommon for a teacher to have a Twitter account to post reminders, and even tips of wisdom. The presence of teachers online even encourages parents to join, to stay connected to what’s going on in the classroom. I’ve noticed that students who are followed by staff members are more careful about what they put out online. Some teachers believe that their students should have private lives outside of school, and don’t follow current students. Still, any school presence online can encourage positive online behavior from teens. It also opens up a quick and informal way to ask about homework, and it builds relationships between their teachers in a way that is appropriate, because the site is public.
I think the presence of schools on social media not only mediates how students interact on social media, but also gives the school its own platform to promote school activities and successes. My school, Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA, has Twitter accounts for various clubs and sports. Our athletics department was able to tweet live updates from our sold out regional championship basketball game, and our principal proudly displays student work on his account. As a recent high school grad, I like knowing that even while I’m at college, I can still keep up with the great things happening at my alma mater.
According to The Search Engine Journal, of all internet users, 72% have social media accounts, with the most active age being 18-29 year-olds, and with 89% having their own page on some form of social media. Social media is not going away anytime soon, and to keep it as a positive outlet for students, schools should get involved.