High school holds students accountable for online behavior
All it takes is just a few clicks on a keyboard to really hurt someone's feelings and teenagers around the country do it every single day.
95 percent of teens say they've witnessed cruel behavior online. 68 percent say they've been the subject of online bullying or gossip. Teens today have grown up in the online world but many are just learning how to conduct themselves.
That's why administrators at Central Arkansas Christian in Little Rock are being more proactive this year in enforcing its social media policy. To tone down the drama, they've stepped up accountability.
"I do not stay up at night, looking at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More often than not, we're made aware of it by students, parents or teachers," Dr. Brad Gist said.
When a questionable text, tweet or post is brought to the attention of school administrators, Principal Gist investigates and interviews those involved. If necessary, he contacts the parents and swift consequences are put in place.
"Sometimes, it's suspension. Sometimes it's suspension from activities and in really all cases, they're put on probation with the understanding that if it happens again that there will be some consequences related to the school," Dr. Gist said.
The goal is to teach students before they become adults that their actions online can have far reaching implications. They want them to realize good and bad behavior can reflect positively or negatively on their entire school. So far, students say it has definitely made an impact.
"It's not really socially acceptable here to be bullying other people or to be rude or inappropriate online. It just doesn't make you cool or popular here," said Hayley Henley, a student at CAC. "It's much more accepted to be positive or to be uplifting through social media."
"I think it's definitely different, we say we're accountable for each other and we're not going to let a buddy go out and say something on some sort of social media that's going to be demeaning to someone else," student Dylan Sherrill said.
Sharon Long, education coordinator for Centers for Youth and Families says parents need to create their own atmosphere of accountability at home for their teens. She believes they need to be aware that mom and dad are going to keep up with their Facebook page, their texts and their tweets the best they can.
"They're definitely figuring it out. That's why it's so important to give boundaries," said Long. "There are no boundaries on the internet unless we impose some parental controls, unless a school imposes boundaries, expectations and consequences. That is why it is so important for us to all work together - school, home, teen and child."
Long also reminds parents to remember that their teens are always watching them. If mom and dad don't model good behavior online or in person, then their teens aren't likely to do the same, either.