We all need to be learners in the virtual classroom. Dr. Sameer Hinduja educated Williston students on Tuesday (and a gathering of parents the evening before) about the clear and present dangers of teenage use of social media.
An expert in his field, Dr. Hindjua’s deceptively youthful appearance gained him quick credibility with our students—a hip college professor connects well with those in middle and upper school. One aspect of his message was not especially new: Electronic postings last a lifetime even if “taken down” from original sites. Yet the advice he gave students was newly framed for them.
Since everything a student posts is permanent—subject to searches by everyone from would-be employers to creepy people—students need to treat their social media presence as part of their very identity. What they post online should be something to be thoughtfully considered, guarded, and treated with utmost care.
Dr. Hinduja also focused as well on the world of cyberbullying, interspersing his lecture with YouTube videos made by teens who have suffered from the humiliating effects of campaigns waged against them.
It’s not that our students would use smart phones or laptops to wage a Lord of the Flies-like power struggle. Even so, they need to hear from pros like Dr. Hinduja that the old saw, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” don’t always apply when those words are streaming through millions of social media accounts.
Social media guidelines for educational institutions have not been widely defined, yet are just as clearly needed. With that in mind, Williston Northampton is working on a set of social media guidelines that we hope will offer students, faculty, and staff helpful, practical advice for navigating social media.
Since these efforts to develop community resources are always ongoing, we welcome your suggestions. What do you keep in mind when you’re online?