The H.S. administration is upset about a new twitter account that has been set up for kids to post anonymous tell-all confessions about the bad things they are up to. Tweet after tweet has kids bragging about vandalism, drug use, sexual encounters, etc. I think what really got the school upset is that there are a few kids making thinly disguised stories about having sex with teachers. The email from H.S. principal Chaffin is posted after the jump.
This social media acting out has been going on for as long as the internet has been around. I looked back in the archives of the old blog and found a post that covers much of the same issues. Back in 2007, the big scandal was kids writing insulting things about teachers on MySpace. I wrote some emails to the super back then, I think they are still pretty relevant to what is happening now. This quote from those exchanges gets to the nub of the issue:
There are two primary facts that have to be kept in mind when you are dealing with a situation where kids are doing bad things on the Internet.
1. Back when we were kids, there was a lot of writing on restroom stall walls that insulted teachers, other students, etc. That’s the nature of kids.
Now we have the Internet, which allows kids to write insults on a much bigger wall that can be seen by more people. But the best way to deal with this kind of childish behavior is no different than back in the old days. You paint over the insults, and move on. Making a big deal out of it just feeds into the power of the wall-scrawler.
All Internet websites have contact info for the administrators of the websites, and an e-mail to them asking for the deletion of offensive content will quickly cause the webpage to be removed. That is the best tactic to suggest to any parent or teacher who reports content that they feel is insulting to them personally.
2. You, as superintendent, are not the Internet police. You have influence over the things that happen in the school, but the things that happen on the Internet – even things that involve kids at the school – are not under your control. The job of “Internet cop” is not part of the school’s mission, and it would be futile to start down that path.
I don’t want to be unsupportive of kids who are being harassed on the internet. When it happens in large amounts over an extended time, it is reasonable for the school to help the kid get the offending material removed. Same for teachers, they shouldn’t have to put up with a campaign of harassment.
But the overwhelming majority of the confessions on this new twitter account are not aimed at any one person, they are just stuff like “Got drunk and had sex before the superbowl -OHS” , “I’m a senior and have a boyfriend but still hookup with my ex on the weekends” -Desales, “A freshman used bible pages to roll joints” -Columbus Academy.
If the school is trying to get this twitter account shut down because of stuff like this, they are being the internet police. Good luck with that! To Chaffin’s credit, he does acknowledge it is a futile task.
Once this twitter feed is taken down, there will likely be another one in a short amount of time if past trends continue.
If that is true, why even try to get it shut down?
This is the email that was sent out by principal Chaffin:
Throughout this year there have been several “anonymous” twitter feeds that have been established with connectivity to our students at GHHS. More recently, what appears to be a Central Ohio anonymous twitter feed has been established called @OHfessions
The intent of anonymous twitter feeds is typically to post seemingly innocent jokes and I believe that a fair percentage of the time kids are not trying to be harmful or mean. The lines can and do get blurred very quickly though, and it often times leaves a student or in some cases a staff member damaged.
The most recent twitter feed that I mentioned above is a culmination of Central Ohio high schools and seems to have postings that are primarily about students breaking the rules and/or the law in lewd and inappropriate stories. Those who post will typically then write what school they are from (GHHS, OLHS, UAHS, etc…). This feed in particular is certainly embarrassing but also provides some very disturbing information. There are currently around 10,000 followers and it has picked up steam in a very short amount of time. I am currently working with other high school principals in Central Ohio to try to have this particular twitter feed removed but that is a slow process. This is not new to high schools and has been happening for at least 4 or 5 years in Central Ohio. Once this twitter feed is taken down, there will likely be another one in a short amount of time if past trends continue.
I think it makes sense to bring all of this to your attention and encourage you to have very open and direct conversations with your son/daughter about the use of twitter, @OHfessions, facebook, kik, snapchat, ask.fm, or any other forms of social media that can be used inappropriately. I would also encourage you to scan the social media feeds I mentioned above periodically to best educate yourselves on some of the issues our kids are dealing with. I have spoken with many parents who require their son/daughter to give them their username and passwords for all forms of social media and have had success through that approach. Their “digital footprint” can stick with them forever…. and again, the lines can get blurred in a hurry.
Nationwide will be providing an informational session for all students concerning online safety in the month of March through our PTO speaker series. We also do our best to educate our students throughout the school year but the work is certainly ongoing. Probably the most daunting challenge is that social media is truly a moving target.
Regardless of the existing challenges, we need to partner and work together for all things best for Grandview kids. We are honored to work alongside of you, and appreciate your support.
As always, thank you for all that you do for our kids.
Note for those failing to find a @OHfessions twitter account, the correct name is @Ohfession, without the s. Also, when I was looking up the spelling of “Darndest” I found that there was a show with that name hosted by Bill Cosby back in 1998. I didn’t remember that, my experience with “Kids say …” was formed by the Art Linkletter show. I’m ancient!