The rise of social media makes it imperative that we teach our students the importance of “digital citizenship.”
Rapid advances in technology have created communication tools and options for our students that make it easy to reach hundreds of people within minutes. These tools can be powerful forces for good, but they can also have a serious negative impact as well. That is why it is so important that educators and parents work together to help our students understand the implications of their use of social media.
I am proud of the work FCPS educators have done in developing and implementing a digital citizenship program. We emphasize the importance of using social media tools safely and encourage students to use these tools in positive ways. We have also offered sessions for parents on how to monitor and keep their children safe on the internet.
Unfortunately, there are still some students who do not make wise choices on social media. Cyberbullying does happen, and I ask students and parents to please use our Bullying, Harassment or Intimidation Reporting Form to report any incidents of cyberbullying. School counselors will then work with the victim, the bully, and the parents.
Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of social media threats related to violence in a school. Frequently, these threats are a student venting frustration or even hoping that school will close as a result of the post. This is extremely troubling, and I do not know if our students fully understand the serious consequences these posts can have.
When FCPS or the Sheriff’s Office become aware of a social media threat, there will be an investigation to evaluate the validity and feasibility of the threat. Police officers will contact parents. Often they will come to the student’s home and will likely do a search of the home as well. In some cases, charges will be filed against the student. Every threat has to be taken seriously, and our law enforcement partners spend a significant amount of time investigating these posts. A positive digital citizen does not post jokes or misleading information about school violence threats.
The other challenge that social media poses for our school system and law enforcement partners is rumor control. When students (or parents) post hearsay or repost items from unknown sources, the misinformation can often spread faster than the truth. If you see a post about threats of school violence but are uncertain if it is true, please contact the school or law enforcement to report the threat rather than reposting it.
Social media will continue to evolve and will be a communication tool for our 21st Century students. It is critically important that they understand the power of this tool and learn to use it wisely.
How can we help our children become better digital citizens, especially when it comes to school safety? Share your ideas with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.