by Terry Rogers
There is no question that social media is an important part of daily life today, especially for young people. Pre-teens and teens spend a significant amount of time on social media, whether posting photos on Snapchat or Instagram and talking to friends on Facebook or Twitter. For many young people, social media is a fun way to connect with others, even with celebrities who also use the platforms to reach fans. However, social media can also be a problem for young people, leading to cyber-bullying and other dangerous behavior.
“We hope parents discuss the dangers of social media with their children and monitor their accounts,” Sergeant Robert Masten, School Resource Officer for Milford School District said. “Unfortunately, there are times where posts are made that they later regret. Education is the key to avoiding this.”
Officer Masten suggests that young people keep their social media accounts private and only accept friends or follower requests from people they personally know. He says that parents need to remind students that when they post and hit send, that post is forever.
“Most students do not realize future employers look at social media accounts of applicants,” Masten said. “Poorly thought out posts can come back later in life and may prevent someone from getting an opportunity they were hoping for.”
Although social media can be used to connect young people with others and many use the platforms to chat with friends in their current school as well as neighboring schools, social media can also be used to bully other students. Cyberbullying can occur through texts, apps and on social media. Kids who engage in online gaming or who post on forums may also be cyberbullied. Since digital devices allow for continuous communication, it is difficult for a child who is being cyberbullied to find relief. In addition, posts on social media are permanent and public, although they can be reported and removed. Even if that occurs, the information has been shared publicly and those who viewed it can bring up the information in subsequent posts, even if what was posted is false.
“Anyone who engages in cyberbullying can be charged with a crime,” Masten said. “It is sometimes not the easiest to prove and it is often done anonymously all too often.” The Delaware Department of Education requires all public schools in Delaware to adopt bullying prevention policies that must include cyberbullying. Milford School District has a specific bullying and cyberbullying prevention policy.
Under Milford School District Policy 5404, Chapter I, Section V.I., students are prohibited from bullying on school property, at school functions or by use of data, computer software, computer systems, computer networks or electronic technology. The policy outlines what will constitute cyberbullying including making another student fear physical or emotional harm, create a hostile, threatening or humiliating environment or interfering with a student’s safe school environment through electronic methods. Students who spread information or photos to embarrass, engage in heated, unequal arguments that make rude, insulting or vulgar remarks, isolate individuals from peer groups or use someone else’s screen name in order to pretend to be them are all considered types of cyberbullying. In addition, forwarding information or pictures that are meant to be private are also examples of cyberbullying.
Under the policy, parents must be notified if their child is involved in any type of bullying. Disciplinary actions range from time-out for younger children to expulsion for repeated offenses.
Parents should discuss the definition of bullying and cyberbullying with their child in an effort to help them understand the consequences as well as what is considered bullying. It is possible a child who is bullying another is unaware that what they are doing on social media is considered bullying. By explaining early in the school year, parents may help their children understand how detrimental bullying can be and reduce incidences throughout the school year.
“We suggest that parents review the Wait Until 8th website which encourages them to wait until a child is in 8th grade before giving them a smartphone,” Masten said. “Every phone carrier offers a basic phone that will allow a child to make calls and text without a data plan that would allow them to access social media.” The website can be viewed at https://www.waituntil8th.org/.
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