The challenge of social media and school

We are writing  to you following concerns of an increase in non-school related issues that are impacting on our students and their education. Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram have had widespread impact on the way in which we communicate and express our thoughts and opinions. Social media clearly has many benefits for us both as individuals and as communities; many schools including Rosehill College and Papakura High School are exploring how we might best harness this power to engage even more closely with parents and students. 

Unfortunately, we are also experiencing an increasing number of situations where social media has been the vehicle for inappropriate behaviour by students. We live in a society where we are proud of our right to freedom of speech and would not wish to suggest that this should be curtailed in any way. There are occasions, however, when things said in the virtual world are at best unhelpful and, at worst, may constitute harassment, bullying or intimidation which could ultimately lead to police involvement. 

Social media and pupil bullying 

There have been a growing number of situations where we have had to deal with students using social media to be unkind to others. What starts as something seemingly harmless takes no account of how those on the receiving end might feel nor does it recognise how quickly things can get out of control and become extremely unpleasant. Whilst things are most likely to have taken place off the school site and outside school hours, the resulting ‘fallout’ in such situations can have major implications for harmonious relationships within school and a resulting negative impact on teaching and learning. If you have concerns that your child might be on the receiving end of hurtful social media posts, or playing a part themselves, please talk to us. Some recent examples of ill-considered use of social media have caused school staff to spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to manage issues and situations. We would much prefer if this time could be focused on our students’ education. Two common questions:

  1. If the site I post comments on is ‘private’ then why should I worry about what I say, as only my ‘friends’ can read it? Once a comment has been posted there is nothing to stop other users forwarding or sharing it. What started as an initial ‘sounding off’ can quickly spread much more widely and cause a lot of unintended hurt. 
  2. How could the police get involved? If postings are threatening or discriminatory then the police may become involved and have the authority to seize mobile devices and contact service providers.

Final thoughts: we pride ourselves on achieving excellence and reflecting on our school values of Manaakitanga –  Respect, including being helpful, showing kindness, demonstrating compassion, humility, ambition, resilience, responsibility, integrity.  As such, when considering online activity and the use of social media, a broadly accurate guide is that if it falls outside of behaviour and interaction as described and encouraged by these values, it is unwise to proceed. Any form of harassment or bullying will be viewed seriously whether online or in person and dealt with accordingly.

So parents please have a conversation with your child regarding social media platforms, including using your cell phone appropriately in school. We are finding ourselves having to deal with an increase in violent outbreaks of students bringing virtual conversations into school and there will be serious consequences for students and families.

The Board will be reviewing the use of cell phones in school and will decide if there is a need to ban cell phones if students cannot use them appropriately.

Davida Suasua