Egg Harbor Twp. High School Vs. Social Media

A story in the news this week from our home state of New Jersey is yet another example of the uneasy relationship between high school administrators and their students over the inappropriate use of social media.

Students at Egg Harbor Township High School posted a profanity-laced video on YouTube over the weekend and the video reportedly went viral and was reported to school officials. It’s impossible to say how viral the original post went because it was subsequently taken down, but it was reposted yesterday and has over 16,000 views. Warning: video and comments are NSFW due to the language used.

The high school posted the following comment on Facebook on Monday afternoon, and confirmed that they had reported the video to the police and prosecutor’s office:

ehths youtube video

As is normally the case, school officials declined to state what the exact punishment levied on the video creators was, but local press reports indicate that the students were suspended for 10 days.

A very vocal portion of the student body is not pleased. More than 100, and perhaps as many as 200 students staged a walkout at the high school yesterday, and a petition posted on the Change.org site decrying the harsh punishment has 762 signatures as of this morning. You can find social media posts showing support on various sites under the hashtag #FreeTonyBeatz.

What should have happened? We don’t have all the details, but here’s our take.

It appears that the video was shot on school grounds on the weekend, so likely without permission. The profane video and scenes of fake fighting, guns and gang signs do cast the school in a bad light. The students shouldn’t have posted the video in the first place.

With that being said, 10 days’ suspension is far too harsh, especially for high school seniors looking to get into college. They will miss time from school and this incident could show up on their permanent record.

Finally, we have no idea why the police and prosecutor’s office were called in, unless it was for the act of trespassing.

In summary, we’d love to see the school admins find a way to set things right in cases such as this one without suspending students or involving the police. It seems that it would have been easily doable in this case.

If you have details to add to the story, you can contact us here.

 

 

 

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AT&T Teams With Schools to Fight Cyberbullying

Too much of the burden around youth cyberbullying gets put on schools – education, prevention, investigating cases and punishing perpetrators. It’s nice to see any time corporate America gets involved to lend a hand.

att-logoThe Teen Indie Awards for students films were held last night in New York, and showcased the winners in AT&T’s new effort to help schools combat cyberbullying.

The Cyberbullying Film Invitational was promoted and managed by AT&T and Fullscreen and attracted more than 250 student filmmakers from across the country. AT&T handed out awards to the best films, and plans to use footage from the winning films to produce an educational cyberbullying resource for schools. The video will be available, for free, to schools starting in March of next year.

The big winners from the contest:

  • Steilacoom High School, Steilacoom, WA, cash prize of $5,000
  • Mythic Bridge, Brooklyn, NY, cash prize of $3,500
  • Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, CA, cash prize of $2,500

Other finalists winning $2,500 awards:

  • Grace Church School, New York, NY
  • Communications High School, Wall, NJ
  • Nature Coast Technical High School, Brooksville, FL

Other finalists winning $1,000 awards:

  • Cedar Crest High School, Lebanon, PA
  • Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY
  • Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School, Brooklyn, NY
  • Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Science and Leadership Academy, Philadelphia, PA

An additional Public Choice award of $5,000 will be given out at a future date. You can vote for your favorite school here (Edit: voting now closed.

According to Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President, AT&T,

“An astounding 8-in-10 teenagers admit to being cyberbullied, or know someone who has been bullied through social media or text. We know this issue is very real for students, schools and families and AT&T wants to help. AT&T congratulates the student participants of our first Cyberbullying Film Invitational. We look forward to incorporating their powerful short films into our national film.”

Thank you and congratulations to all students who were involved, and thanks to AT&T for an outstanding effort to help the youth community. Thanks also for giving these budding filmmakers a stage to show their work.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

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How The Laws Don’t Effectively Apply to Social Media

This is just one example, but a pretty stark one we think, of why our lawmakers need to quickly rethink and rewrite some of our laws when it comes to how they are applied to social media.

A three-judge appeals panel in Florida ruled last week that a teen was not guilty of juvenile delinquency despite having tweeted threats of a school shooting on more than one occasion.
Twitter logo

“In one post, he wrote: “night f***ing sucked can’t wait to shoot up my school soon,” according to the court. He also tweeted out “it’s time,” accompanied by a picture of a gun being slipped into a backpack.”

He later went on to insist that he was joking (of course), but the fact that he was found not guilty is a serious miscarriage of justice. Even if he was joking, a message should be sent to other students that threats, joking or otherwise, will not be tolerated.

The problem is that the Florida law, originally written in 2013, contemplated written (pen and paper) threats, and principally those made by one person to another. Despite the law being updated in 2010, it still fails to cover broadcast communications of the type made possible by social media. With social media, a user can threaten a person, a school or a whole country.

One of the judges on the panel lamented the poorly written law, and urged legislators to make changes:

“With [social media’s] popularity comes the unfortunate but inevitable problem that social media posts, like any other form of communication, can be used to make threats of violence. But many threats made on social media will fall outside the narrow language of (the law), which was originally written with pen-and-paper letters in mind.”

We should be striving to create schools where threats are exceedingly rare. Punishing offenders appropriately helps move us toward that goal. By cutting down on the number of threats, we would waste less time, cause less stress and have more resources available to investigate credible threats.

It’s time for some changes.

 

 

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Student Expelled Over Yik Yak Joke Sues Michigan Tech

There are far too many stories that involve teens and young adults getting tripped up using social media. Here’s another one, this one involving a Michigan Tech (MTU) student and Yik Yak.

Michigan Tech LogoLast November Matthew Schultz, a student at the school, took to anonymous app Yik Yak and posted the following: “Gonna shoot all black people… a smile tomorrow,” followed by a smiley face emoji. Upon first reading that, it is easy to think that his intention was to actually shoot people, not shoot them a smile. Schultz has insisted from the beginning that it was a joke. We tend to agree. The problem is that racial tensions were running high that month, as Black Lives Matter protests were taking place at Missouri and other colleges.

Another student screen grabbed the post, cropped out the “a smile tomorrow” part and forwarded it to MTU’s police staff, who quickly acted.

Campus police reached out to Yik Yak to identify the poster. Yik Yak did so, but also informed the officers that the post had been cropped. Despite learning the full content of the original post, the police charged Schultz with a domestic terrorism felony (charges were later dropped entirely).

University officials, based on the felony terrorism charge, elected to suspend and then expel Schultz from the school. Schultz was not permitted to appeal at any point in the process. Now Schultz is suing, claiming that the school is using him as a scapegoat to show that they are serious about race relations.

Our take on this train wreck is pretty simple. Schultz should not have posted a joke that could have been construed as a violent threat. He did, though, and now the cleanup is unlikely to be quick or simple.

That being said, this is supposed to be an institution of higher learning, and this should have served as a teaching moment. While the police were right to act quickly, they were wrong to press charges when they knew the post was in all likelihood a joke. While it was reasonable for MTU to suspend Schultz briefly while investigating the matter, the 18-month suspension and then expulsion were way overboard.

Cooler heads should have prevailed here.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

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Introduction to Safety Net of PA

If you’re located in the Mid-Atlantic and your school, club, team or organization catering to youths is looking to get smarter about digital education and safety I have some good news for you – there’s a new resource available in the area. It’s called Safety Net of PA.

Safety New of PAI had the pleasure of having dinner last night with the founder, Joe Yeager, and was pleased to find that we share a lot of the same philosophies when it comes to digital parenting. We both believe in a hands-on approach, while at the same time respecting the privacy of our, and all kids. We understand that when it comes to our teens, implementing an outright ban on the latest technologies is likely to backfire. We don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to all potential digital risks and problems.

I first met Joe online, on Facebook. We are both members of the group Social Networking Safety, which you should definitely check out if you’re the parent of kids who are active online, or about to be.

Joe’s decision to start Safety Net was driven by his passion to keep kids safe, and his desire to help all kids use the available tech resources in the most constructive way possible.

Joe is available to lead seminars, for kids or parents, and his most popular talks span a number of topics including:

  • Digital Parenting
  • Building Influence Online
  • Social Grand Parenting
  • Managing Your Digital Footprint
  • Standing Up To Cyberbullying
  • Chatting and Texting

If you’re planning an event in the area, I strongly recommend that you consider Joe and Safety Net. For more great free resources, you can visit his website or Safety Net on Facebook.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

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Texas Tech Football Coach Admits to Catfishing Players

Well, sort of. In any case, we’re not fans of this story.

Let us start by saying that if you’re the leader of an organization, and expect those below you to trust in your leadership, you shouldn’t do anything to make them believe you aren’t worthy of that trust.

Texas Tech LogoTexas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted in an interview last week that he and his staff use fake social media accounts to spy on monitor players. Not cool.

According to Kingsbury, he and his staff set up fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook and make them look like they are owned by attractive girls, complete with cute profile pictures. The fake account then sends friend requests to his players, who are generally quick to accept the request, because, you know, cute girls… For all we know, they are doing it on Snapchat and Instagram as well.

The coaches are then privy to what players are posting, even in the event that their accounts are private. According to Kingsbury, “Those [accounts] are heavily monitored, for sure,”

We understand why coaches would do this, but don’t think they should. It is spying, and is using a totally dishonest tactics to get it done. We can’t imagine that they’ve disclosed to players that they are, or might be, doing this. When asked to defend the actions, Kingsbury offered,“[Social media is] complete and utter madness.”

That’s no excuse for deceiving your players – players who are expected to trust and respect you. I wouldn’t want one of my kids to be playing for a program that does this. It’s one thing to monitor public social media (one of the things we do here at ThirdParent, by the way), and something that we understand most major athletic programs are doing. It is another thing entirely to deceive people to gain access to their private posts.

Texas Tech ought to know better. Stay tuned for the backlash.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teens or tweens are at risk, or are acting inappropriately online, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

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Are Schools Monitoring Social Media Spying?

It seems like there are a group of families in New Jersey who don’t understand the meaning of the words “public” and “private”.

Parents of students at North Jersey’s High Point Regional High School are up in arms after one student was banned from attending the senior class formal after a tweet that was seen by the Principal. The tweet in question, on the day of the formal:

schools monitor social media

“Turned up” means drunk, or otherwise under the influence of something.

As a principal, if you are made aware that a student is going to show up at a school sanctioned event under the influence – because of something that student posted publicly – that is in no way spying. Acting on that information seems like the prudent thing to do, and well within the responsibilities of a principal. Actually, it seems like the only thing to do.

The families seem to be of a different mind. According to an article in the New Jersey Herald, parents are indeed suspicious:

“Over the past year, however, several other parents, teachers, and graduates of High Point — all of whom have asked for their names not to be published — have related similar stories of students being called to the office or questioned based on suspicion of activities frowned upon by the administration. Some suggested it was fairly common knowledge that this was being done.”

According to the same article, Superintendent Scott Ripley had the following to say:

“High Point administration reviews only those materials brought to its attention or that [are] publicly available. At no time does the administration pressure students into disclosing private posts on social media, nor does the administration engage in subterfuge in order to view such information.”

That’s pretty clear. The school is using the resources available to monitor risks in its community. That is not spying.

If what the teen tweeted about the formal was a joke, this is unfortunate, but if missing a party is the lone consequence then that is a lesson well learned.

If you are concerned about what your teens are posting publicly, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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A Look at NJ’s Tough Cyberbullying Laws

As New Jersey residents and folks who are very involved in all aspects of cyberbullying – except actually doing it – we’ve seen a lot of the nuance around NJ’s Harassment, Bullying and Intimidation (HIB) Laws. These laws are generally accepted to be some of the toughest in the country. We saw the following posted on Reddit Monday evening by someone who claims to be a NJ high school student (slightly edited for clarity and length):

“Today, I was suspended from school. The reason? I made an offensive comment about a girl who goes to my school in a private Facebook chat on Saturday night. A friend of hers (who also hates me) was then added to the chat briefly (I say briefly because he was removed in about 2 minutes). In 2 short minutes that person had enough time to screenshot what I said about the girl and send it to her. The girl then printed out my comments and showed the school vice-principal, who promptly suspended me on the grounds of “cyber-bullying.”

How is this cyber-bullying? I made a comment about a person in a private chat with no intention of her ever seeing the comment. Is gossip bullying too? I know NJ HIB laws are strict but how is this punishment at all justified and more importantly, LEGAL? If you know anything about the laws, please give me some information, or re-direct me to somewhere I can find it. Thank you for reading!”

You might think that this example is school administration overreach, but the law itself and how it must be applied is all that matters here. Here’s the section of the New Jersey law that applies:

No Cyberbullying
By Internetsinacoso (http://noalciberacoso.blogspot.com)

“”Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication…that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic… that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds as, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students”

New Jersey schools must have an HIB policy and procedures, and don’t have any option but to follow up on each and every cyberbullying complaint, even if it happens outside the school, and levy a punishment that seems just. Perhaps the suspension is too much but we’re sure the school is relying on some sort of precedent, and they were given proof in writing of the offense.

We checked in with a friend who is a New Jersey Vice Principal (not at the school at hand in this case). Here is what he had to say:

“HIB laws include bullying in person or cyber in or out of school. There was probably an investigation into this by the HIB Coordinator at which point they determined [a suspension} was warranted. I actually think it is out of control that this becomes HIB. Parents need to parent better. Education doesn’t have the wherewithal to keep up that with social media. In fact, even the police are perplexed by some cases and do not know how to proceed.“

It appears that the law here is working as it was intended. New Jersey means for these cases to be judged harshly. Of course, the way to avoid situations such as this is to avoiding making offensive comments about your peers. Even things that are said “in private” can become public, and fair game for stern consequences.

 

 

 

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Illinois College Students Fire Back Against Yik Yak Ban

Short of unplugging their servers, it appears that banning Yik Yak on any given campus is more difficult that it might appear.

Yik Yak, the anonymous, location-based social network, has been home to many problems, including cyberbullying, teacher bashing, bomb and other threats, party crashing, and blatant talk of illegal activity. Users do have the option to remain fully anonymous – unless the police get involved – and they do in may cases.

Yik Yak ban Illinois College
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Eductaion

In February, students at Illinois College appealed to the school administration to block Yik Yak, principally because of a number of racially charged posts. The school President Barbara Farley agreed, and use of Yik Yak was recently banned on the school’s wireless network. The problem is that students were still able to access Yik Yak via their phones’ data plan, and students did just that, letting other users how they felt about the ban (pictured at right, from The Chronicle of Higher Education).

Blocking Yik Yak has been a hot topic of late. Amid a rash of bad behavior by high school users in 2014, Yik Yak voluntarily blocked its app at over 85% of the high schools in the country (or at least that was their claim at the time). We tested the block ourselves, and found schools where it was blocked, and schools where it was operational a mere few feet from the front door.

Blocking Yik Yak at a college is a futile exercise. Sure, school admins can block it from the schools wireless network as Illinois College did, but students are still free to use it. Yik Yak is not going to voluntarily block the app at colleges, since college students are its core focus. It might actually make the problem worse.

We aren’t fans of Yik Yak, but will be quick to admit that if bad actors are unable to use Yik Yak, there are plenty of other social networks and messaging apps that they can use. The best thing that parents can do is make sure that their own kids are using technology responsibly.

 

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Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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Student Warned of School Stabbing Spree on Tumblr

Should schools monitor social media for obvious issues, such as publicly posted threats? It has been a controversial question of late, and as far as we know few schools are doing it. Privacy concerns are often cited, although legally monitoring private accounts and posts is impossible. Once a student, or anyone, posts something publicly on social media, we don’t believe that the poster should have any expectation of privacy.

If you’re of the opinion that scanning public social media for school threats is a bad idea, a very unfortunate case in Canada this week might change your mind.

Seven students in a Pickering Ontario high school were stabbed Tuesday, the day after a 14-year old student (name withheld for obvious reasons) published a series of posts on Tumblr in which she clearly stated that she had been contemplating suicide, and instead had decided to go to school and commit a series of stabbings.

pickering-school-stabbing

The threat wasn’t hard to find. Her posts from the night before were hashtagged with, among other things #murder, #suicide and #triggerwarning. On the morning of the stabbings, she posted the following:

tumblr-stabbing

The students, their parents and the staff at the school could have had fair warning that this was going to happen. If an effective public social media threat program were in place they would have been warned.

Full disclosure: we have built a solution for exactly this type of situation. If your school is interested in a public social media monitoring program, let us know. We can implement a cost effective program for your school.

 

 

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