Gazette opinion: Students need education on social media

2013-03-26T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Students need education on social media The Billings Gazette
March 26, 2013 12:00 am

Billings Public Schools parents are getting letters this week from Superintendent Terry Bouck asking for help in curbing uncivil and unsafe use of social media.

The trigger for this reminder about cyber dangers was the recent appearance of Facebook pages where people could post anonymous comments about students and staff at local high schools. Some of the posts were “very vulgar and hurtful in nature,” Bouck wrote in a letter posted on the district’s website Friday and mailed to parents over the weekend.

Whether it’s off line or Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Wickr, Tumblr, Formspring or texting — slander is still slander. And cyber slander can be online forever.

When inappropriate communication involves children and teenagers, both senders and receivers can suffer. Tragic cases of youth who killed themselves after being victimized by cyber bullying have become all too frequent across our country. Unthinking teens who post inappropriate statements or send nude photos of themselves may find those posts come back to haunt them when people they never intended see the posts.

Confession pages may be the latest vehicle for teens to slam teachers and other teens, but they aren’t the only concern and won’t be the last.

Cyberbullying is specifically and strictly against Billings Public Schools policy and can result in disciplinary action against students. West High Principal Dave Cobb told a Gazette reporter that at least five students have admitted to managing or posting on confessions pages.

Bouck’s letter contains this warning: “Billings Public Schools is working with the Billings Police Department, Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the FBI to identify the creators of these pages and the persons making inappropriate posts or comments on these pages per our Hazing, Bullying and Cyberbullying Procedure and Harassment/Intimidation of Students Policy.”

Parents and school administrators can’t control social media. They must help children and teens develop critical thinking skills, to protect themselves and respect others.

For ideas to get the conversation started, check the box below.

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