Last Thursday I was sitting at my child’s middle school assembly and the topic was “Safety and Bullying.” My child goes to a New York City public school and the school as well as the school system really appears to have done as much as they can to promote safe and positive learning experiences with one small exception; social media.
Let me start by saying as I was riding the MTA to the school, I listened as one male 6th grader said to another, “why didn’t you tag me in that photo”. My ears perked up because I’m well aware of the policies at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat as they apply to children and they each ban children until the age of the 13. I have written a bit on this subject before and I feel strongly against posting my children’s pictures or information, but that doesn’t mean I expect all parents to do the same thing. At the same time, I do believe that all parents should abide by the contractual rules and regulations of social media providers and keep their younger children off the platforms.
I know the ubiquity of social media has led some pressured parents to sneak their children onto social media and let them set up profiles prematurely. This is especially the case when it comes to younger children with older friends or younger children being denied the same opportunities as the older students within the same grade. I also know that many parents will comply with their children’s request even though the children may not be remotely ready for social media.
Some children’s advocates espouse the belief that it is up to the platforms to monitor “suspicious” profiles (as well as inappropriate behavior) and act accordingly. I believe the platforms have no incentives to do so without local, state and federal laws nor should they be responsible.
That brings me back to the assembly. So much bullying and social animus doesn’t happen face to face, but rather on social media, which leads me to ask; “why don’t the schools just ban their students from social media altogether?” Our school for instance could simply say that no students are allowed to set up personal profiles and the children (whether them and their parents like it or not) would be forced to comply. After all, who would want to risk punishment when it is so easy to check who has a profile?
I am not sure this would be a fair solution in high school but in elementary and middle school (whether grades 6-8 or 7-9) why should the schools subject themselves to all of the possible liabilities and distractions? In addition, what are the real benefits of social media for a 12 year old? The great majority would still have access to telephones, email, texting and the internet. Aren’t all of those enough social stimulus?