I think we can all agree we live in the social media age. According to a 2012 study, 90% of 13-17 year olds reported using some form of social media. About 70% of adults use social media regularly, and about half use two or more social media platforms. Without a doubt, these percentages have increased since 2012. We are a nation living our lives online like never before – for better or worse.
Social media has both benefits and drawbacks in K-12 education. One of the benefits of social networking sites is that they allow school districts to stay better connected with their school communities through information sharing. Most, if not all, area school districts have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. These platforms allow school districts to share information with and receive feedback from their communities in real time. In the event of a crisis, social media will allow Palos 118 and other school districts the ability to quickly communicate accurate information, dispel rumors or other false information, coordinate crisis response efforts, and disseminate information regarding community support services.
On Twitter, you can follow me at @DrScarsella, and the district at @Palos_118. On Facebook, you can like our page at Palos School District 118. If you aren't already on Twitter or Facebook, you can get instructions for creating social media accounts here.
While social media has many benefits as a crisis management tool, it also has crisis prevention applications. Regardless of how we feel about it, our children are living more and more of their lives online. Increasingly, they are sharing their feelings and emotions on social networking sites, over text messaging and through applications like Snapchat. Most disturbingly, some are using social media to bully, intimidate, and threaten others.
I’m asking parents to please consider closely monitoring your children’s online footprint, particularly at this age and level of maturity. Close monitoring of your child’s online activity may discover a cry for help, prevent inappropriate behavior or intervene in poor decision-making. I’m also asking parents to partner with us in maintaining safe school environments by making us aware of any online threats made toward students, staff, or school buildings. If you believe students, staff or school buildings are in imminent danger, please contact local law enforcement immediately. It is just as important for adults as it is for students to remember if you hear or see something, say something. Together, we can prevent tragedies before they occur.
Dr. Anthony M. Scarsella