Forum says to "teach kids responsible social media use"

Jordan Crawford | 8/11/2014, 9:38 a.m.
Experts are maintaining that students should be taught acceptable and responsible ways of using social media.
Students should be taught acceptable and responsible ways of using social media.

At a recent Virginia School & Campus Safety Training Forum Scott Harvey seemed to be of the common mindset that students should be taught acceptable and responsible ways of using social media.

Harvey recalled how an elementary school had a floppy disk displayed in a showcase as an “artifact” — a reminder to teachers and parents that their students are part of a different generation.

He shared that story and then showed the crowd at the Hampton Roads Convention Center a list of social media networks. Harvey, a sergeant with the Nicholasville Police Department in Kentucky, has traveled the country promoting greater parental education for responsible social media use.

“If Facebook were a person, it would be a fifth-grader, but in the world of technology that makes it old. To them, Facebook is an artifact. It’s been around longer than some of them have been alive,” he said.

This tidbit of information garnered many surprised gasps from audience members all across the conference room.

Harvey’s message to attendees was it’s up to parents to set good examples on what appropriate usage of social media looks like, including knowing how to avoid and respond to cyber-bullying and what photos are OK to share.

Social media trends for youth have changed, Harvey said. And while Facebook remains the biggest social media network on Earth, many young people are fleeing because it’s perceived as “uncool,” he said.

Instead, many young people are increasingly using Twitter, Instagram and newer networks, such as Vine and Snapchat. Harvey said in too many cases, access to the Internet is given to kids like keys to a car without any driving lessons.

For this generation, Harvey said growing up is different.

“There are no studies that show how social media use affects kids’ long-term development,” he said. He noted that even when his two daughters are playing around the house, if they have their photo taken, their first question is, “Is this going up online?”

“I’m glad nobody was making a permanent record of my middle-school life,” Harvey said. But in his opinion, that’s exactly what is taking place now.

Harvey said it’s impossible for parents to have complete control. Simply forbidding their children from using social networks isn’t adequate to keep them from showing up in photos taken by their friends or family.

Instead, he said it’s best for parents to guide their children and have discussions about how they should conduct themselves online, including taking note of their friends and contacts online. He said law enforcement officers should also be aware of what’s happening in their communities through social media.

“I don’t know if you’ve figured it out yet, when the fight happens in your school, there’s a video. If it’s not on your cameras, it’s on a cell phone somewhere and may be online,” he said.

John Healy, an officer with the Hampton Police Department who attended the forum, said Harvey was on target with his message. “We agree 100 percent,” Healy said. “If you’re not in tune with this stuff the kids are doing, you’re behind the power curve. We are very active in monitoring social media,” he said.

Sexual assault on college campuses was also a primary topic discussed. Experts presented information about the challenges in dealing with the crimes, as well as new reporting mandates.

Sexual Assault on college campuses is one of the most difficult crimes to tackle, according to Sen. Mark Warner who also spoke at the conference. It is the most challenging to combat because many cases go unreported.

There is often fear and shame held by victims, as well as common myths about perpetrators. Campus law enforcement, faculty and staff alike must be vigilant and take care of their customers, the students.