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Social media can be vehicle for bullying

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By Harrison Otto

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Cyberbullying has taken its toll on millions of people across the globe. Students at BASH are not immune, as a recent incident involving Yik Yak, the anonymous social media app, proves.

Earlier this year, students used Yik Yak to cyberbully numerous others without revealing their identity, causing a school-wide frenzy of hurt feelings and destroyed reputations.

“There were some pretty ugly things said about students,” said assistant principal Dr. Wayne Foley. “So therefore, our goal was to figure out what it is as quickly as we possibly could and move through it.”

It took a few days for school administration put an end to the bullying by cutting student access to the application. “We worked with our IT department, and we actually called the company, and they helped us put a geo-fence up,” Dr. Foley said.

This geo-fence restricts students from using Yik Yak at school. However, the application was accessible long enough to allow some students to spread negative rumors about one another.

People were just getting ripped apart; they were being terrorized.”

— Sophomore Jared Mertz

“Everyone’s attitude flared up during that period of time, and just the whole atmosphere and vibe in the school got out of hand very quickly,” said senior Zach Sermarini, “No one had anything constructive or nice to say.”

Sophomore Jared Mertz said, “It really affected everybody, [and] not in good way. People were just getting ripped apart; they were being terrorized.”

Though the app is gone from BASH, Yik Yak has raised important questions about social media and has taken its toll on many other schools in the area. Northern Lebanon School District also has blocked the use of Yik Yak in their schools. In fact, the district says they are encouraging parents to talk to their children about the anonymous app.

Mertz said he believes most social media is harmless overall. “There is no real need for it, but there’s nothing really bad about it.”

Sermarini also said social media, when managed by the school, can be very helpful. “Things like our student council Twitter and Edmodo [are] helpful for us to stay in touch with each other and keep up to date with [school activities],” he said.

Ultimately, it’s up to the students to make good choices about social media.”

— Dr. Foley

Dr. Foley said administration is discussing possible ways to teach students social media etiquette, hoping to prevent something like this from happening again.

“If we educate people on how to properly use [social media], then I think that’s a better way to do it [versus trying to] get rid of it,” he said.

In fact, Dr. Foley has developed a “digital citizenship” course that will encompass K -12. Upon completing the course, students will receive a certificate as their “digital driver’s license.”

Ultimately, said Dr. Foley, “it’s up to the students to make good choices about social media.”

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