With social media increasingly taking center stage in student crimes, such as the recent shooting at Socastee High School, the South Carolina Department of Education is taking steps according to federal law to educate students on Internet safety and the appropriate use of social media.
Director of Internal Technology for the SC Department of Education Don Cantrell says the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which was passed at the end of the Bush administration, “states that public schools and libraries in K through 12 must provide Internet safety awareness in their curriculum.”
On September 21, a 14-year-old Socastee High freshman was arrested for firing a shot a the school resource officer and bringing pipe bombs to school. As early as August 23 and up to moments before the shooting, the student was using his Twitter page to post threatening messages. Within the past month, at least three other high school students have been charged with posting threats on Facebook and other websites.
According to Cantrell, the issue goes beyond Internet safety from predators to social media sense.
No longer is it just Internet safety–we’ve come beyond that. Now with the introduction of cell phones in our young people’s lives, other mobile media devices like iPads, even video gaming, all give access to communications to other people and socializing.
While there is no direct funding, no guidelines for how to implement programs and no requirement for the state Department of Education to oversee these online classes, Cantrell says parents and teachers can teach their students to use some common sense.
If our young people can come to the plate and help educate their parents and those around them with the technology aspects of things, then the parents can come to the plate and help educate and support and nurture their young people with life’s lessons and to learn how to be critical thinkers when they’re online. A lot of what our young people are doing that are getting them in trouble are just plain old common sense things that older people can see.
With the shooting incident in Socastee, many wonder why the shooter’s Twitter threats were never reported. Cantrell reminds students that all consumers are responsible not only for their own posts, but others’ as well.
Whether it’s inappropriate material on Twitter, on Facebook, Myspace, Youtube or what have you, our young people need to realize that it’s their obligation–it’s their responsibility–to be good consumers themselves and report that to a trusted adult.
Cantrell’s best advice for students is to step in the shoes of someone else.
AUDIO: Cantrell says to read social media through the eyes of parents, predators, and potential employers (:58)