Facebook and High School Students

You might have read this year that Facebook is losing its cool status with teenagers in general, and specifically high school students. Judging by the headlines I’m reading this week, not only are plenty of high schoolers still on Facebook, but they are busy finding new and innovative ways to make bad decisions and humiliate their peers.  If only there were a way to channel some of the creativity that high school students are showing on Facebook into actual schoolwork.

thirdparent facebook logoOver the last few months, the trend of high school Facebook confession pages has gained more attention. The trend is older than that, really, but has been getting more press recently. The way it works is a student or group can put together a Facebook page designed to air student dirty laundry, and initially use word of mouth to get students to go there and post confessions, which are sometimes anonymous and sometimes not. While most confessions may be harmless, some can lead to more serious consequences, especially when the posting student’s real name is used. All the while, it is easy for the page’s creator and administrators to remain anonymous.

This week we’re hearing more about racy or hurtful Facebook pages such as the one in Fort Collins, CO where users posted unflattering pictures of girls to Facebook and called them whores. The desired result was clearly to insult or humiliate the girls in the pictures.

Yesterday, Bridgewater-Raritan NJ high school officials revealed that they are bound and determined to find out who created and posted the videos on the “BRHS Fights” Facebook page. Some of the students in the fights have reportedly been suspended, but parents are upset and the page has not been taken down yet.

Why is there so much bad teen behavior on Facebook?

The Atlantic has an article this week – The Internet “Narcissism Epidemic”” – in which the author writes:

“among a group of 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as quickly as obesity from the 1980s to the present. Fortunately for narcissists, the continued explosion of social networking has provided them with productivity tools to continually expand their reach — the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, and occasionally Google Plus.”

It appears that high school students are not much different. Narcissism, while not the worst quality in the world, can get very nasty when it extends to making oneself feel superior by using a public forum to ridicule others.

Overall, this caustic Facebook behavior produces a lot of negative outcomes that ultimately (a) have to be dealt with by teachers or parents, (b) might land some kids in hot water, and (c) will inevitably leave some kids feeling very bad about themselves.

From a student quoted in the Bridgewater-Raritan article:

“I can see it as a bullying page, because I can see the next day someone walking into school saying, ‘I saw you on Facebook. I saw you got beat up on Facebook. You suck at fighting,’ and if that happened to me I would get hurt,” Brothers said. “I would feel you could never show your face again at school.”

Don’t look to Facebook for all the answers. They won’t or can’t act to remove content in many cases, unless it very obviously violates their community standards.

What can school admins do? In the Bridgewater NJ case, parents are calling out school officials for not having informed them about he “BRHS Fights” page earlier. Schools’ policies and procedures around student internet activity, whether it happens on school grounds or not, is evolving and needs a lot of work.

What can parents do? The typical answer might be that parent involvement should begin with making sure your teen understands how to correctly implement Facebook privacy settings. Second, explain to your kid that a picture posted as “private” can be reposted as “public” by one of their friends.

Please don’t stop there. It is really up to the parents to work harder at teaching right and wrong. Bad internet behavior is in fact just bad behavior. Try to convince your teen that just because something seems anonymous on the internet, it may not really be anonymous, doesn’t mean that it is any less hurtful, or that the negative consequences will be somehow diminished.

 

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

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