Is social media a liability for schools?

Is social media a liability for schools?
Whether for the purpose of school marketing or helping students engage with their learning, social media has a ubiquitous presence in K-12 education.

However, while this innovation has its benefits, there are serious concerns that it can also have a profoundly damaging impact, and even be a potential liability for schools.

On January 3, 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett took her life after being bullied online. Sadly, this is just one of many tragic examples of how social media can be used for sinister purposes, and with devastating effect.

Now there have been calls to bar children under 12 from using social media.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a youth mental health expert, says children under 12 should be banned from using social media.

"It is as simple as that – yet I go to primary schools right across Australia and the principals are pulling their hair out because the parents aren't enforcing this," Dr Carr-Gregg told ABC News.

“You have got up to 60-70% of primary school kids on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and they simply do not have the neurological maturity to manage their digital footprint.”

Dr Carr-Gregg says society has to communicate this message to parents.

“We have to educate them, and at the moment we are not doing enough.”

Some studies conducted in the US have suggested that social media may be responsible for an increase in youth mental health issues.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, said depression and anxiety in teens began spiking in 2011 and 2012 – when more than half of Americans got a smartphone.

“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives; from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health,” Professor Twenge wrote in The Atlantic.

“There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives – and making them seriously unhappy.”

Principals Australia Institute (PAI) CEO, Paul Geyer, said today’s children live in a “constantly connected culture” thanks to smartphones and social media.

“This can lead us to compare ourselves to others to a sometimes obsessive degree, and also means it’s difficult to truly escape unhealthy interactions that could previously be left at the school gate,” Geyer told The Educator.

In an effort to tackle these issues, Geyer said the PAI’s Family-School Engagement workshop will be offered this year as a professional learning opportunity for principals to network with peers, share ideas, and learn about best practice in this important area of school management.

Related stories:
Students’ mental health concerns double since 2015 – study
Opinion: Smartphones, sexting and sexual harrassment