Is Social Media the New ‘Bathroom Wall’ For Schools?

There has always been high school gossip — the ubiquitous scrawlings on school bathroom walls have been around since there have been bathroom walls. But a few nasty words are quite different from applications that smartphone toting students can check all through the school day. Alyssa Newcomb, writing for ABC News, quotes John Dodig, Staples High School principal in Westport, Connecticut that merges the old and the new:

"Inadvertently, the people who developed these apps have created a digital bathroom stall for thousands of people to see."

For Dodig's school, the problem got so out of hand that the school installed a "geo fence" from Yik Yak, a bulletin board app through which young people can post anonymously. The fence can establish the longitude and latitude of a school that has the fence and block the application from being used on that campus. So far, 85% of US primary and secondary schools have been successfully blocked.

Since some of the terms used so far may be foreign to all but the kids who use them, Newcomb has added a short list of the most popular apps.

Like Twitter, Yik Yak was created to allow college students to have a mobile campus bulletin board. The difference from Twitter being that the posts are anonymous. The terms of use are clear on what type of language and content can be used on Yik Yak, which is pretty much any objectionable material. Nonetheless, this platform has morphed into a high school gossip site. In March, one high school had to close because a bomb threat was "Yakked".

This type of behavior is hurtful, embarrassing, and scarring, say some students. Although the geo-fence has helped, Dodig believes that the bottom line is teaching young people that words are powerful and can have catastrophic effects on other people.

Another is the Gaggle app, with clearly posted rules which it requires every user to read before he or she starts using it. The app was banned at Katy Independent School District in Texas. It had become too distracting and too annoying. It is much like Yik Yak, but allows photos to be posted which can be judged as good or bad. To make things a bit worse, there is an online educational tool by the same name, which is not the same thing. The online Gaggle helps educators and students manage homework.

Two more questionable apps are Rumr and Truth. Strangers are not allowed on this messaging tool, but users can send messages to their contacts directly or in the form of group mailings.

On another technological topic from the educational front, the New Jersey School Boards Association has disallowed teachers and students to "friend" one another on Facebook. The only exception is if a teacher has special approval from his or her principal.

New Jersey's revision to its social media policy was signed by Governor Chris Christie on April 24 reports Peggy McGlone for The Star Ledger. The policy advises school administrators to hold an annual orientation concerning proper decorum for staff and students. The law gives each school board the flexibility to write their own policies.

05 13, 2014
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