Earlier today, I read an article that mentioned a new law in Illinois. The law went into effect this month and concerns asking for the passwords of students who have social media accounts. According to the source I read, the new law requires school authorities to notify parents/guardians that their elementary or secondary school children may be asked to provide a password for an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other similar account to school officials. The passwords would be requested in certain circumstances, such as evidence that a student violated a school policy/rule (like cyberbullying). Reasonable cause would be required.
I had mixed feelings after reading this story. I’ve read heartbreaking accounts of students who have suffered from cyberbullying and it makes good sense for school districts to do their best to protect students from this type of harassment as well as potentially lethal threats. More and more, states are putting laws into position to protect students.
Today’s millennials have a lot more to face in public since easy access to social media greatly magnifies any mistakes that those preteens and teens might make as a normal part of growing up. It’s not right that this type of social media problem happens, but it’s today’s reality.
At the same time, social media offers consolation and support for the distressed. People who feel that someone has been wronged will leap to defend and console that person.
At the same time, I feel that everyone — even celebrities — has a right to privacy. When someone says or does something intended to remain private in their homes, they don’t always want it spread all over the Web and have it lasting on somebody’s server for eternity. (!) There was another story I read about a parent who shared a picture of their cute toddler on Facebook to their friends; it went viral and they didn’t want it to become viral.
So where do you draw the line between safeguarding the physical and mental health of students vs. the need to keep some information private? There’s a great saying by football coach Vince Lombardi: “Praise in public, criticize in private.” In an age where people are increasingly liable for what they say on social media, it’s more important than ever before to carefully consider what you put online since it represents you, your family, your local organizations or your workplace.
Some criticism is acceptable if it’s constructive. Businesses with social media accounts use what their critics say to detect flaws in their products or services, so that those flaws can be eliminated and customers become happier. But those businesses, too, draw the line at personal attacks, and rightly so.
Blog readers: What are your opinions? How do you determine what poses an actual threat versus just venting in social media? How do you prevent someone’s social media rights from being abused? Let’s get talking.