CHAPEL HILL – With advancements in technology have come additional methods of bullying in schools and one local high school is working to deter the misuse of social media.

“Students are always going to find new and unique ways of finding power,” says Rob Frescoln, administrative intern at East Chapel Hill High School. “Bullying is just that, somebody who might previously had not had power expressing that, trying to find out who they are.”

Frescoln says bullying isn’t the only concern those advancements have brought on.

“If you post it, it’s permanent,” Frescoln says. “Applications such as SnapChat where kids can send messages back and forth, send images back and forth and those images supposedly disappear after four, six, ten seconds, they have this idea that it’s not permanent.”

Together with some students and the administration at East Chapel Hill, Frescoln created a summit where experts in the social media industry along with counseling interns and the school’s administration got together to talk to the students about the dangers of things like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat, but more importantly to talk about how they can be used in a positive way.

“Gary Kayye came to talk to the kids about how social media is portrayed in the media,” Frescoln says. “We had a speaker come from WUNC public television to talk about how social media effects life after high school. We had an investigator from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office come in and talk about the legal ramifications about social media. And then we had the administration and teachers talk about how social media can be used and is used at the school, and what are some of the implications of that usage both positive and negative.”

At the summit, Frescoln says the group created what they call their constitution for social media use.

“This is our idea—what we feel social media is—and because of this idea, these are the things, these are the behaviors that we will exhibit to make it more of a positive, useful, and powerful thing here at school,” Frescoln says. “

He says with this in place, the hope is that the health and safety of students—at least at East—can be threatened less by the digital age.

“It used to be that parents were concerned about the stalkers, the child molesters, and the child abductors,” Frescoln says. “But, they really need to understand that it’s students who are hurting other students and themselves by what they’re posting these days.”

And, he says this summit was not a one-time thing.

“What I’d really like to see happen—and what I plan on doing—is bringing this down to the middle school,” Frescoln says.

He says when the Internet first came about, many schools and families went through the process of learning the rights and wrongs of it together. With social media, that isn’t regularly the case.

“Social media right now is, at the middle school level, kind of a free-for-all,” Frescoln says. “There’s no lifeguard at the pool, so to speak. Parents and other adults aren’t as savvy with their middle school kids, and the middle school students are pretty much learning on their own.”

Frescoln says he hopes this first stab at social media training and comprehension will spread to other areas of the district.

“It would be great if we could develop some programs to look at social media literacy,” Frescoln says. “We have this assumption that kids know what to do and how to do it, but I think we really need to take a step back, look at what’s out there, learn it for ourselves, and then help kids to navigate it and make good choices.”

And regardless of what is done going forward, Frescoln says one thing is certain.

“Social media is here; it’s here to stay,” Frescoln says. “It’s not going anywere, so we need to help kids make those good decisions.”

East Chapel Hill High School Social Media Constitution

We, the students of ECHHS, believe that Social Media is important, a huge part of our culture, and is not going away.  It is also a privilege.  You should always think before you post and be aware that what you say will be there forever.  We believe that it should be used for fun, but not at the expense of others.

Because of these beliefs, we agree to do the following when using social media:
-use it in a positive way,
-be courteous and cautious,
-think before we tweet, post or send,
-be aware of consequences,
-maintain our privacy,
-report negative behavior like bullying,
– send only images that we would be proud of, and won’t regret later,
-reach out to those using social media irresponsibly,
-spread the good word about social media as well as educate others about possible consequences of irresponsible uses,
-and use social media respectfully and responsibly by treating people the way we want to be treated.

By writing down our beliefs and agreed-upon behaviors, we intend to create a Social Media culture that is positive, bully-free, and supportive of all students at East and others in our community.