Raising Awareness of Social Media

by Althea Turley and Elizabeth DellaMorte

A 17-year-old Marshfield High School student was arrested on October 17 for anarchy and two counts of threats to commit murder. Kyle Stockford posted the threats via Twitter and school officials then alerted police.

Technology makes life easier in many ways, but unfortunately, it makes threats easier and can put the public’s safety in peril. Having the internet and other means of communication like texting and emailing can cause students to say things they otherwise wouldn’t. Some experts feel that the absence of face-to-face communication creates a false sense of comfort and result in idle, harmless threats.

Sturgis West Principal Peter Steedman feels there may be a connection or a link between social media and how easy it is to make threats. He said, “There is no doubt. The research is fairly clear that students might text one another something that they would not dare say. Of course the whole point of anonymity is the fact that you can say something without it coming back to you.”

Even though easier access to technology allows people to make threats, it is not clear if the number of actual school bullying accounts has increased, or whether it is just the public’s perception due to the awareness people have about such plots due to electronic communication.

Steedman said, “We have a greater awareness of antisocial behavior because students are using Facebook, texting and the internet. Thirty or forty years ago, the conversation would not have been as open. Today the conversation does not stop at the end of the school day. We have a whole 24 hours news cycle so we can know about these things. For example, from what I understand, abductions of children have not necessarily increased, but our awareness of them has increased.”

Also, the public has been quick to blame social media and video games for increased anti-social behavior, despite the fact that there has been no clear link between the two.

“I am comfortable saying that I don't know. I am hesitant to blame the media. I haven't seen a whole lot of firm documentation that claims … that students who play video games are more likely to participate in antisocial behavior.” said Steedman.