During the class, “fidgets” were on the tables hoping it would stimulate brain activity and class participation.
Last week, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office participated in a lesson plan about bullying, cyberbullying and sexting with ninth graders at the Montgomery County High School. The focus for our office was to inform the students of the legal ramifications of related crimes for juveniles and adults.
A social media scavenger hunt was conducted to give us insight on exactly how active our young adults are online. It was a frank conversation, in a safe environment. The students were very forthright about their feelings, outlooks, and opinions concerning these topics. We were impressed with their maturity and the openness displayed by the kids.
The survey showed the average Montgomery County High School freshman is on three to six different social networks; two students were on 11 – the highest number. The majority of students are active – meaning they’re on at least once a week – on one to four networks.
The following is a list of the networks, with the number of students reporting to having accounts:
- Snapchat – 56
- Instagram – 48
- TikTok – 39
- YouTube – 22
- Facebook – 18
- Pinterest – 9
- Twitter – 8
- Discord – 4
- Twitch – 2
- What’s App – 2
- Amino, Google, LGBTQ, Shein, and Wave each had 1 student.
The students averaged between 100 and 200 friends on their favorite network. Six students reported having 1,000 or more friends and one reported to having 6,702.
Here’s the interesting part. Out of 74 students, only 22 said they knew every one of their social network friends. Stating the obvious, the higher the number of friends, the less likely the student was to know everyone on their social media account. Yet despite this, they are all aware that the profile of the “friend” they do not know, in all probability, is nothing what the friend claims to be. BUT THEY ACCEPT THEM ANYWAY!
All but 2 students understood that just because something is deleted from a Facebook page, it does not mean it is permanently deleted from the internet.
Of the 74 students participating, 71 said they have witnessed online bullying behavior, and 42 of those students said they have seen online bullying on a daily occurrence while 22 said they seldom witness online bullying. Of those 22, most gave the reasons that they either don’t communicate on their social media accounts or are very selective about their online friends.
When the students were asked if they thought social media was a good thing, 27 felt it was both good and bad. This depended on the factors of who was online, why they were online, and how they utilized it.
Students who felt social media was a good thing, cited reasons like communicating with friends or family that live far away, getting encouragement from others, sharing information and it gave them something to do.
Those who felt it is bad, for the most part, commented on the negativity. There were several students who were very articulate stating:
“Harassment is so prevalent.”
“It’s dangerous because it can lead to suicide.”
“You don’t always know who you’re communicating with.”
Students said they felt people bully online because of jealousy, insecurity, wanting attention, having nothing to do, gamer rage, expressing themselves, people are braver online, low self-esteem, people like to cause drama, or they want to escalate an argument.
Several students provided more profound answers:
“It is a person’s instinct to survive being abuse.”
“There’s pressure to be the best, so they put others down.”
“It’s becoming more often because people have become more sensitive.”
“There isn’t more bullying online, there’s just more hate in society.”
When the students were asked if they felt boys or girls were worse about online bullying, 33 said they felt girls were, and no – those 33 were not all boys. It was actually just the opposite. More females felt girls were worse. The males’ answers to this question were a little more vocal. The reality is that girls are slightly worse about online bullying, however boys are more likely to post a hurtful photo.
What can teachers and parents do to help children navigate the wild, wild, west called the internet? The kids’ suggestions were to monitor activity, block sites, and confiscate electronic devices if privileges were abused. They also said they felt parents and teachers should report to social media authorities, educate their children about online communications, teach children to be more compassionate, stress the importance of the consequences of their actions, talk to them and try to understand. Many said that nothing can be done.
Interestingly, 44 of the students believe parents don’t know everything their child is doing online because, depending on the age of the parent, most parents did not grow up with social media. Quite a few felt the parents didn’t care or intentionally didn’t want to know.
So, what are some ways parents can guide their soon to be young adults regarding social media?
- Familiarize yourself with the state law on bullying and cyberbullying. Know the difference between bullying and when someone is just being unkind. Recognize, this is not a criminal statute, but a statute regarding school district policy.
160.775. Antibullying policy required — definition — content, requirements. — 1. Every district shall adopt an antibullying policy by September 1, 2007.
- “Bullying” means intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception; or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying may consist of physical actions, including gestures, or oral, cyberbullying, electronic, or written communication, and any threat of retaliation for reporting of such acts. Bullying of students is prohibited on school property, at any school function, or on a school bus. “Cyberbullying” means bullying as defined in this subsection through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.
- Search your school website menu for the online bully reporting option.
- Monitor your child’s internet activity.
- Provide a safe, non- judgmental atmosphere for your child to talk about online communications.
- Teach your child the importance of communicating safely with people they know.
- Teach your child to disengage from conversations online that are of an unkind nature or are sexually suggestive.
- If harassment continues or there is enticement, document the date, time, and content of incidents. Screen shot or print out bullying comments. If obscene materials are found on your child’s electronic devices, wrap the device in aluminum foil, if it is necessary for reporting to law enforcement.
We learned a lot from the kids and hopefully, they in turn learned something from us. We look forward to having more opportunities in the future to pick their wonderful, insightful, introspective minds and continue the dialogue.
We’d like to thank School Counselor Keri Poehlman, Science Department Teacher Matthew Skroblus, and the Montgomery High School faculty for making us feel welcome. (Btw, Mrs. Garrett’s cinnamon rolls are to die for!)
In the near future, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will have an App for hotline numbers regarding these issues. Until then, please contact the office or submit a question on the website, if assistance is needed or for more information.