High School Athletes and Social Media

In the wake of a Kent State wrestler being suspended indefinitely this month over a tweet that was deemed by the coaching staff to be inappropriate, the online newspaper Cleveland.com asked readers to weigh in on a related issue. The question asked was:

Should high schools monitor student-athletes’ social media activity?

Since the extent to which schools are monitoring students online, especially outside of school hours, is a hot button issue for parents, we thought we’d take a look at some of the reader responses and weigh in with our own comments.

“The school should only monitor social media with regard to the students who have signed the athletic code agreement that states (in most schools) that behavior unbecoming an athlete, who is representative of the school, is not allowed…Other than that…it is the parents of said student that SHOULD be monitoring social media…not the school. It is their RESPONSIBILITY as a parent to do so.”

That is an answer we certainly support. If an athlete signs a code of conduct, the school is definitely free to monitor athletes’ adherence to it. The fact that parents bear significant responsibility in monitoring teens’ online activity whether they play a sport or not is also true.

“I follow some high school athletes on Twitter. I’m often left wondering if their parents or coaches ever look at what they’re posting. Because if I was their parent or coach, I’d be mortified by how they represent themselves in a public forum.”

Unfortunately, we’ve seen many examples of such behavior. Some student athletes just get caught in the moment, are unaware of the risks of bad behavior online, or think the risk of getting caught is minimal. More and more often, kids’ inappropriate online activity is being made public.

“Every question about “should schools be required to ________” should always be accompanied by “are we willing to fund the additional added responsibility?””

Unfortunately, cost is an issue. If a school district does not have he resources to monitor all athletes, it runs the risk of only selectively enforcing its policies.

“Monitor – no.
Verification of reported abuse – yes.”

Again, reported abuses should certainly be investigated, but those who do get caught may be unjustly singled out. Having a conduct policy without a means to enforce it unless something gets reported seems to be a less that ideal situation.

“High school students with any sense will not have any social media accounts in their real name. While your opinions are supposedly protected by the First Amendment, in practice, they are not. Your opinions can be held against you by your school, colleges, employers, our government, other governments, etc. Further, they’ll also examine your friends. You might be squeaky clean, but if the sister of your friend’s mom isn’t…”

We can’t say that we agree with this. If students only post inappropriate comments or pictures, they are unlikely to suffer any negative consequences. Furthermore, a student who crafts a positive online image will not only be a more attractive candidate to colleges but to employers down the road as well.

The debate is a healthy one, and we are hopeful that an increased spotlight on how students conduct themselves online – and who is watching – will lead to more positive behavior generally, and specifically lead to students thinking about collateral damage before they post.


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

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