At this point, social media is an enduring part of our culture. Schools, however, are still struggling with the many new issues it can generate for students in and out of the classroom, from more frequent bullying to easier college admissions. Educational institutions are finding it difficult to determine the lines between invading student privacy, protecting students, and keeping the benefits of the medium.
Now that electronic devices are becoming a staple in middle and high schools, schools realize that social media comes, too. Educators say they do not monitor social media when kids are out of school, unless prompted by a threat such as one made against a teacher in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Huntsville City School district started a social media-monitoring program called Students Against Fear (SAFe) which resulted in the expulsion of 14 students after the NSA received a threat involving a teacher, reports Deangelo Mcdaniel for Deseret News.
“Social media has become part of everyone’s everyday life,” said Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers. “Teachers are struggling to find the right balance — or deciding not to participate — because while there are rewards, there are also risks.”
Schools are not only concerned about students’ activity online, but teachers’ activity as well. Schools are implementing codes of conduct that include rules against teachers “friending” students on social media sites to help curb troublesome behavior.
This is for the protection of the teachers as much as it is for the students. Nationwide, teachers have been the targets of harassment and deplorable accusations via social media. Students have even made fake teacher accounts and accused teachers of rape and assault online, writes Randi Weiner for USA Today.
While schools continue to struggle with their grasp of social media, students are getting savvier and using the medium to their benefit. It wasn’t long ago that students would apply to colleges including inappropriate e-mail addresses in their contact information and depicting illicit behavior on public social media accounts. Now students are cleaning up their online image by the time they hit high school, obtaining suitable e-mail accounts, deleting questionable pictures and comments, and making profiles private or using fake names.
This is a smart move. Even though some colleges feel they should only judge a student by the information included in the application, many others feel that a Google search is fair game, according to Natasha Singer for The New York Times.
Still, even with college hopefuls cleaning up their act online, there is room for schools to educate students on how to maintain an appropriate social media presence, especially at an earlier age. Online reputation, privacy, and networking benefits are all things that could be taught to students to help them make the most out of their social media experiences that they dive into at younger and younger ages each year, writes Ronnie Charrier for Venture Beat.
Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, says that teachers are already overworked, and although social media is important, so are other things. “All students should learn to swim, but should it be the school’s responsibility to teach them swimming?” Kelly asks. Well, I say yes. If you’re a school in an area where your students are regularly going to be swimming, then you should feel it’s important that they know how. Australia, a country more over 75 percent of the population lives near the ocean, has swimming as part of its curriculum. Likewise, as the numbers indicate, social media is already a large part of students’ lives and teachers should see this as an opportunity, not as a burden.
Educators can follow rules in order to improve their social presence as well, writes Jason Saltmarsh for Huffington Post. As many have signed in written agreements, they should never ‘friend’ a student, he writes. Saltmarsh advises that teachers not talk about their school on personal accounts and only communicate with parents and students through official school accounts while ensuring that their privacy settings and content are appropriate for public view.