Schools are back in session for some and about to start for others. In a world where kids routinely communicate via their smartphones, should we question if they are smart enough to outsmart an even smarter predator? If we've learned nothing else in recent years, it's not about "stranger danger" anymore with so many of the offenders looking like "normal" people who are trusted by the community - like Jared "Subway Guy" Fogle.
A recent study Pew Research Internet Project's national survey of teens and parents shows 81 percent of teens use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, reveals that it is the most preferred portal of communication for teens.
Parents are divided on their position on if they feel comfortable with adult teachers communicating via digital devices with their kids. For some they think it blurs the lines between respect and rapport. Others feel that it’s no big deal like the picture depicts, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em right?
The thing is there has been an increase in the number of sexual abuse cases reported nationwide and an AAUW 2011 report estimated that 10 percent of students suffer some form of sexual abuse during their school years. The report is 5 years old, but just watching the news there seems to be more stories of teacher abuse. The kind of things that were reported by the kids surveyed as inappropriate conduct included: lewd comments, exposure to pornography, peeping in the locker rooms, touching and grabbing that escalated into a sexual encounter. The State of Missouri is so concerned about this they have passed a law SB 54 that precludes teacher student communication via social sites, citing “Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use work related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a non-work related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student”.
In response to the concern around teachers having private communication portals with kids an app called Remind has been created to allow teachers to still enjoy the convenience of sending messages electronically to students and parents. The app keeps contact information private as teachers never see students’ phone numbers and students’ never see teachers’ numbers. Parents, teachers and students have easy access to message history and can use reporting tools to flag words or content shared.
So, what can you do now to protect your kids or help your school create appropriate policies around social media interaction?
Recommend they do these four things:
Here’s a link to a guide to help - Social Media Policy Guide
Here are examples and considerations - School Facebook Page
Set rules that limit or relegate text messaging using a tool like Remind that limits the accessibility of personal information reported and sets a time schedule.
As a speaker at student leadership events like HOBY Conferences and as a blog contributor for organizations like Boystown, I share social media tips to keep kids safe. I get how teachers want to communicate with their students in ways that are comfortable, convenient and contemporary.
There is a need to connect with our kids where they are, but it is also important as adults that we maintain a level of rapport that is still one that promotes respect for our elders and professional boundaries.
To have me speak at your school on social media contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org