Kindness, Safety, and Social Media

Written by: Mrs. Michelle Odell

It’s a strange title. My experience in education hasn’t let me to believe that kindness and safety are words associated with many social media interactions. People often say things on social media they would never say to a person’s face. The perceived anonymity makes them bold and erases the thoughtful censorship of words which is present in most face to face interactions.

During this first month of school, I’ve reluctantly become acquainted with an app students are using: After School.  After investigating it, I have found very little redeeming value for this social media app. It is used for inappropriate content and has caused many hurt feelings. The app is supposed to verify a student’s school via connecting to their Facebook profile so that all the users interacting are from the same school. The app’s website says, “After School fosters fun and creative online and offline experiences for America’s teens, in a positive environment with zero tolerance for cyberbullying, threats, or content that threatens the safety of our online community.”  The app boasts live monitoring and immediate removal of inappropriate content. This is not accurate. In dealing with the app, I’ve discovered inappropriate posts that are allowed to remain posted. The staff assigned to “monitor” posts are inadequate for the number of users across the nation. The app also allows anonymous posts. Any app that allows anonymous posts is not concerned about cyberbullying or promoting a safe environment.

Please don’t try to install the app in an effort to learn more about it. It is disturbing. Once this app is installed and verifies identity via Facebook, it is not easily removed. It takes more than deleting the app. You have to disconnect it from your Facebook profile.

Is this the only app that is inappropriate for our students? Of course not. There are many. And more are created all the time.

If this is the case, how can we protect our students?

  1. Be extra vigilant about technology use and know what is on your child’s device(s). Your child may not like that you “invade their privacy”; however, frequent checks of their messages and posts on any social media platform are important.
  2. Stay connected with other parents and the school. YCDS parents brought their concerns about After School to me and shared them with other parents as well. Our collective efforts and knowledge are important in resolving and preventing the misuse of social media.
  3. Do your research? Google it. Read about the apps your child uses. Check sites like Common Sense Media for updates on apps, both old and new.

It is our collective partnership that promotes kindness and safety in a digital world. I’m thrilled to partner with each of you. I wish app creators did more to prevent cyberbullying and misuse. However, until they do, we will work together to share information and keep our children safe.