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Teens - not schools - need to take responsibility for social media posts

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Before the early 1990s when internet providers first became commercialized, the sole purpose of the internet was to be used by the US federal government for communication. But with the rapid advancement of technology during the twenty-first century, the internet quickly evolved from a private means of communication to the massive, information-providing monster it remains today; and with the internet’s ability to connect to a seemingly endless array of devices, the latest of which being watches, it has become increasingly impossible to disconnect from it, especially for teenagers with a prevalent presence on social media.

Social media has become as much an integral aspect of society as face-to-face communication. People can share pictures, post statuses for friends to discuss, meetup with long-lost acquaintances, and document life events. But along with the interminably positive uses of these media outlets comes a darker side: a side plagued with leaked, scandalous images, rumors, and content that could, if ever discovered by a future employer or university, destroy the lives of the teenagers on the subject end of these posts.

People have tried since the dawn of the explosion of the technological to find ways to protect kids and teenagers from this dark side of the internet and social media. Some point fingers at legislators and police forces, some at parents, and some at religion, but the overwhelming nomination for the protection of teens from the internet lies within the schools they attend, especially if that is where the content in question originated. However, according to Principal Russell Davis of Spotsylvania High School, schools don’t have as much control over the content their students post or are subject to on the internet as most are led to believe.

“If something [social media posts] is illegal, then I’m usually brought into it. If someone reports it to the Sheriff’s department or something like that… I know the Sheriff’s department will deal with stuff like that, but if they can’t make a definitive [identification] of who posted it… I don’t know. That’s the difficult part. I really don’t know. It only becomes my matter if it disrupts school or the [learning] environment. Then it becomes my business… but other than that, I really don’t have anything to do with social media in that regard. That’s why I hate it,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis explained that schools have to handle many issues that are not related to education. “The laws are changing, and schools are getting more bogged down with what they have to deal with. A school reflects the community it serves. It [social media] is just a small piece of it. So when those things go on and schools have to deal with them, it’s because it’s a society issue. Not a school issue. Schools have to deal with a lot of issues that have nothing to do with education,” Principal Davis said.

So that leaves us with the question: Who, if not schools, should be protecting teens from the internet?

The answer to which lies within the teenagers themselves.

Teenagers are capable of making smart decisions and weighing costs and benefits. They have the power to refuse to send a naked photo to their significant other or to stray away from rumors and accusations. Sitting around and crying to schools once those bad choices come back around to bite them won’t solve anything.

The biggest steps teens can make to protecting themselves from the internet are to nip bad choices in the bud and own up to the bad choices that have been made already, which is truly more a step in the direction of growing into adulthood than anything.

Responsibility is a virtue that needs to be adopted and practiced by all teenagers.

The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Knight Times staff or the faculty and staff of Spotsylvania High School.

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