Abdicating Responsibility: The Sad State of Social Media Education

When parents and educators fail to take action to educate, our students will suffer.

The social media news coming out of Albany High School in California last week is a perfect case study for how educators and parents are abdicating their responsibility to educate students on the safe and productive use of social media. Even worse, each group is pointing the finger of blame at the other for this failure. The solution must be a partnership between parents and schools to make sure students are properly equipped with the digital skills they will need to succeed both academically and professionally.

To summarize, four Albany High School students were suspended after liking racist posts on Instagram. Parents of the suspended students sued the school claiming the suspensions violated each student’s right to free speech. The school’s defense rests on providing a safe and non-intimidating environment for all students. If the school community taught students that their personal social media posts reflect upon the reputation of the groups and organizations they represent, these students would have thought before liking such offensive posts. Likewise, if these students understood that everything they post to social media is permanent and discoverable by anyone in the world interested in finding it, these students would have thought before liking such offensive posts. Moreover, if these students knew that colleges and employers will view their social media to assess their character, credentials and credibility prior to making decisions, these students would have would have thought before liking such offensive posts.

This episode will negatively impact these students from college admissions and from finding work. Neither schools nor employers will be impressed by candidates expressing appreciation for the words and work of the KKK or nazis.

Fingers can be pointed and lawyers can be retained but it is time for educators and parents to understand that social media is here to stay and the digital portfolios wie build, either intentionally or accidentally, will impact our academic and professional aspirations in significant ways. Education is the answer and communities must invest in teaching students the how and why behind responsible social media use.

The events of Albany High School are taking place all other the country. This is not a police matter. This is not a legal matter. This is an educational matter and proactive decisions need to be made. Young people are squandering opportunities. This needs to stop. This needs to stop now.

Alan KatzmanComment