School Beat: I read it on a social media so it must be true!

By Dan Zang, Rockford High School Principal

There is no question that social media and social networking are certainly here to stay. While there are many positive attributes, great causes, and skills that we can learn from being plugged into these sites, let’s be a bit cautious and urge ourselves and our children/students to employ a bit of moderation, common sense, politeness, as well as the ability to decipher factual information.

From an educational perspective, here are a few more thoughts and concerns related to social media:

  • Students may rely too much on the accessibility of information on social media and the internet as the only pathway to seeking answers/solutions. There is research that this actually reduces the focus on learning and hampers retaining information.
  • Students that tend to have their electronic devices near them while studying show reduced performance by the mere presence of their device and the overwhelming urge to know the latest information posted. Most parents are paying for these devices; set healthy parameters.
  • Certainly an even greater fear for all of us is the distraction that these devices can cause while driving. In 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. Taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds at 55 MPH is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed! Parents need to have this conversation with their children and, better yet, model behavior behind the wheel that promotes safe driving. Hand your device to a passenger in the vehicle if you really need to send or retrieve information while driving- pull over to a safe place if your attention needs to be given to your device, or simply shut it off- it can wait!
  • The more time students spend on social sites, the less time they spend socializing with actual people. The skill of communicating face to face is being sacrificed by communicating with a screen. We also know that devices and platforms are a vehicle for bullying, an avenue to create fake profiles, and can keep us from other healthy behaviors like reading and exercising. As mentioned above, employ the moderation rule!
  • Many educators worry that social media platforms and texting have created a very relaxed attitude towards proper spelling and grammar. As I write this article, I am certainly using spell check; however, long before these tools were available, a strong foundation was set by amazing teachers in my personal educational journey. Is that foundation as strong for our students who rely on a wide variety of tools and short cuts?
  • The most important aspect of social media I share with students is a very simple question: if everything you post on social media impacts your personal brand, how do you want to be known? Many students (and adults) make hasty decisions that may bring about negative consequences down the road. Many college admissions offices and employers are investigating digital footprints. Is your digital footprint a true picture of who you really are?

Wishing each of you all the very best and good health to you and your loved ones!