Dealing with Social Media

Students today are deeply engaged with the rapidly evolving world of Social Media.  Formats such as Facebook, Instant Messaging, and other social networks add a dimension to their communications options that are constantly changing and which present a challenge for personal interactions outside of school and within the school community.  At best, these social networks provide dynamic means of connecting with people; at worse, they can be arenas for bullying.

 

 

Click here for a printable version of this letter

 

October 28, 2010


Dear Members of the Weston High School Community,


The purpose of this letter is to inform you all of incidents of internet harassment and the steps the high school is taking to address them. Over the past two weeks, several students, parents, and teachers have received emails or U.S. Mail delivered letters highlighting derogatory and offensive comments targeting students. Some of these communications were anonymously delivered to faculty and parents or listed under a fictitious name “John Hart.” The social networking site used to send many of these messages is called formspring (www.formspring.me).

 

Here is my understanding of how formspring works. It is a site that students can sign up to have their own page, much like Facebook. The point of this page is for people to ask questions and for the owner of the page to respond. Similar to a wall posting on Facebook, anyone who goes to their site can see the posed questions and answers. The main difference here is that people can post questions anonymously to the owner of the page. Thus, there is no accountability or filter for what gets asked, which results in people having to read offensive or hurtful comments before the owner of the page decides to delete them or not. 

 

Formspring is a site that many of our students use for innocent reasons. However, it is also a vehicle for harassment and bullying and can create a hostile environment for students at school. Here is the dilemma for home and school: How do we help students who have a formspring page deal with unwanted or hurtful comments targeting them simply because they decided to open a formspring page? Furthermore, how do we help our students respond appropriately to such postings? We have examples of appropriate and inappropriate responses by our students.

 

In addressing this and similar situations, the high school’s primary goal is to be protective of our students in this developing age of social media. We can do this most effectively by partnering with you to educate them on how to use this technology appropriately. We are continuing our efforts to inform parents and students about how to safely and appropriately make use of various types of social media. Please go to /index.cfm?pid=24031 for additional information on this topic. In addition, we intend to discipline those students whom we identify as using this forum inappropriately as outlined in the Student/Parent Handbook. This process may involve, but is not limited to, conversations with students, parents, and the examination of pertinent evidence.

 

Tomorrow at each class meeting, the assistant principal and I will be addressing this issue and soliciting student assistance in combating this problem. In an ideal world anyone should be able to have a formspring page to communicate with whomever they choose without fear of receiving inappropriate or hurtful comments. Sadly this is not the case. We need your help in monitoring your child’s internet use so that together we can prevent any student from experiencing harassment over the internet.

Thank you for your attention and cooperation in this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 
Anthony A. Parker
Principal
 

 

Click here for a printable version of this letter

 

 

Please refer to the webpage Dealing with Bullying for more on what Weston High School is doing to address bullying and cyberbullying.

 

Click on a link below for more information on internet social media:

 

New York Times article on Formspring 5/5/2010

How to set Facebook Security Settings

Internet Safety Strategies

 

 
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