Recent incident puts spotlight on social media problems
Although it was determined that there was no physical threat intended in a posting on social media that caused concern in the Skaneateles School District last week, the posting ended up putting the spotlight on a much greater issue.
Interviews with students revealed just how widespread and damaging the misuse of social media has become. Superintendent Ken Slentz, in an alert sent to parents, highlighted the worrisome discovery.
“After meeting with the student, the student's parents, and other individuals relevant to the social media posting we told you about earlier today, we have determined that there was no threat intended towards the schools or towards any specific students,” he started.
However, he went on, an investigation showed concerning issues with social media in general and Skype in particular. “The contacts and postings are taking place at all hours of the night. This is a challenge for many of us as parents in terms of how we best monitor our children's access to and use of technology in general and social media specifically. To this end, in the days ahead we will be sending out and posting various suggestions and information about ways to address these challenges and will continue to work with our students on the responsible use of social media. Once again, we are asking for your partnership on this.”
Slentz and Middle School Principal Gary Gerst held an assembly for the entire eighth grade, urging students to use their best judgment in terms of social media.
Gerst started by assuring students that safety is a top concern. “One of your classmates made a very serious mistake on Instagram,” he said. “Our first step was to ensure that everyone was safe … and then to communicate with parents to let them know,” he said.
Now, he said, it is important for everyone to learn from the mistake. “We want to use this unfortunate situation to instill things in you,” he said, urging them to think before “liking” a post and to “tell someone when you see a post of concern.” He said they face challenges that previous generations never faced. “We did not have social media. The problems we had might be shared with a handful of people. Our comments and issues could not go out to thousands. Remember when you post something you cannot take it back.”
Slentz asked students a series of questions, determining that the majority are connected to technology and that many are plugged in even after 9 p.m. at night. He told them the district’s top priority is their safety, and he asked what they might think that means.
One student replied “ … that we are physically, socially and mentally safe from harm.”
Indeed, said Slentz, safety goes beyond physical. “You have stuff going on inside … we all need to be concerned. Some of your classmates are struggling. Listen. Alert someone. We have to keep each other safe. We are members of a community.”
Slentz reminded the eighth graders that they are “the seniors of the middle school,” and stressed that they have a responsibility to set a good example … and to take care of each other.
He urged them to unplug. “If you are on social media after 9 p.m., you are not rested enough,” he said. “We will talk with your parents about helping you to unplug.”
He added: “Our job is to help each other stay safe … so that Mr. Santoro and I can greet all of you when you cross the stage for graduation.”
As posted on the website and released through School News Notified last week, Slentz also shared these thoughts: “As we suggested in the first notice on this issue, we will react as quickly as possible to any threat – real or perceived – in making sure that our students are safe while on our buses, in our schools, and on our grounds. With this in mind, we also have the obligation to make sure that our individual students who may be struggling for a variety of reasons - including being bullied after school hours - are being properly supported.”
“In the meantime, if your child is experiencing or witnessing any of these types of issues during the after school hours, please utilize our "Stop Bullying" portal on our website at http://www.skanschools.org/stopBullying.cfm. If you believe that your child is in danger based on a social media threat, please call 911 immediately to report this. Thanks very much for your support, your understanding, and your partnership.”
** The photo used with this story was taken during the Be Cool Not Cruel event recently held for sixth graders. High school students held small group discussions with the younger students and discussions included bullying and social media. Be Cool Not Cruel is an annual event, and one of a number of things the district does to promote wellness and kindness among students.