Social Media in Schools

Is Social Media Just Too Much

(This post can be accessed on Google Docs with better views of the Twitter graphics,)

Let’s agree that people with stuff to sell or things to promote just can’t use social media enough. Generating “inbound” traffic in search of that viral moment when the product or message gets as many hits as the crazy cat video du jour is a noble and profitable endeavor. For the rest of us, shouldn’t we just take one giant step back?

I am, you should know, a very powerful person. While some in the class get to manage giant corporations, cure the sick, and engineer solutions to intractable problems, I have the power to cancel school when it snows. Yes, I am Jack twitterin’ Frost.

It was not too long ago when a simple call to two radio stations, accompanied by a top secret code, is all it took to spread joy to thousands of children while simultaneously sending their parents into childcare panic mode. Not any more…Today Jack has to call his old friends at the radio station that has very few listeners left. The television stations now want part of the action, too. The text-alert notification system has to be activated so everybody’s phone can beep at 5:30AM. And then there’s Twitter.

The big tweet turns into a geometric progression of re-tweets, until, it seems, a two hour delay turns into a national social media event. Didn’t all their phones just beep? Doesn’t anyone just smile and roll over anymore?

And, you know, that’s not the half of it. Anytime it gets a little cloudy, someone is out there tweeting Jack that he should cancel school.

 

Unda da Cuinnfluence‏@Cuinnquistador

Will my baby be safe in school tomorrow? @CometsAH -concerned daddy

 

The tweeting doesn’t stop there. While Jack Frost does get around, what would he do without access to road conditions, provided courtesy of his Twitter friends?

 

Clare Gallagher ‏@C_Gallagherr  Dec 10

Good call @CometsAH ! Roads are lookin good… pic.twitter.com/HbGbmYdL4I

And after getting a complete update on road conditions, if Jack is a little behind the neighboring districts, his friends are are quick with a nudge of helpful information.

Eliza Andrews‏@el_drews

@CometsAH wOULDYA JUST LOOKY THERE AT THAT RIGHT HERE. WOULDYA JUST.

While social media can be a constructive, dynamic and  fun tool for students, it has also presented a long list of challenges for public schools. A little scorn directed at the superintendent regarding a snow day or the nutritional value of chicken nuggets (baked, no longer fried) is harmless. The same is not true when students turn the power of social media against each other. Too often, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms are weaponized by young people to threaten, bully and demean each other and school staff. While it is hard to get an accurate measure, it is estimated between 9% and 15% of students experience cyberbullying.

 

Although the arena for cyber-bullying is virtual, the impact it has on relationships is real. Too often, cyber-bullying issues spill over into the halls of schools.  Young people, who too often are fragile enough, are pushed to anxiety through an emerging phenomenon that nobody seems quite sure how to handle. If social media can become a dangerous place for United Airlines, imagine potential impact on struggling teenagers.

 

The problem is made even more difficult to address in the school setting because of the legal perils faced by districts in any effort to address the matter. On one hand, districts are responsible to provide a safe environment for its students, including a safe online environment. On the other hand, districts must respect the First Amendment Rights of its students to express themselves, including in online environments. The complex legal environment is little consolation to those who are victimized through social media.

 

We have come a long way from tuning in the radio early in the morning and waiting for the DJ to read through the long list of schools to get to the good news. No cell phone, no computers, just TV, radio and the morning newspaper. I guess we would not want to go all the way back…but wouldn’t it be nice not to tweet about the weather for a week or two?

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