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I Spend Half My Day Cleaning Up Social Media Disasters Of Young Teens

01/09/2015 5:35 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than reflecting on the fond memories of my time at high school, some 10 *cough* 12 years ago.

Meeting school friends and reflecting on the elaborate lies told to get away with mild-to-moderate escapades, letter books (because there is no way a teacher will confiscate a whole book of letters over a single piece of paper) and finally the ongoing bitchiness that arose but disappeared just as quick, always gives me that feeling of I'd love to be back there, as a student.

Seven years into my teaching career, however, it has become increasingly apparent that times are most certainly a changin', and at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, the only statement that truly encapsulates the reality of the situation is: It was so much easier in my day.

Social media and the shift of parental responsibilities are to blame.

Every term there are a plethora of new and inventive apps/sites/social media that our students are exposed to. Sure there are the obvious ones: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter -- but there are so many more.

My particular nemesis goes by the name of ASKFM. "What is this?" I hear you ask. Well, it is an anonymous posting site -- think Facebook, however anyone can anonymously post horrible statements/questions or even pictures for the world to see.

It's also referred to by the cool kids as "Hate". To put that in a sentence: "I am receiving so much hate on Askfm." I have had young girls in particular show me threads with statements that are so hurtful, deliberate and specific that as a 27-year-old I have been horrified.

You see, when I was in school and some individual was game enough to make a comment like that to me -- albeit through the very intimidating, envelope folded, handwritten letter -- It was a matter of me, as a sole individual, reading it and choosing to react in a similarly intimidating way, or to simply throw it out.

Either way, it was done. I may have aggressively typed a text message to counter the attack -- but that never exceeded the 100 characters of my NOKIA 3310, and really to be fair, most of the time it was not worth the 33 cents.

These types of sites allow for young people to have constant contact with this "hate", to never escape it.

But it does not finish there. Thanks to the beauty of the ol' smart phones, these messages are screen shot and spread around.

Wonderful, marvellous even, as the child, and yes I use the word "child" deliberately, is always followed with it. It is connected to them, in their pocket and the constant vibrations just reinforce that "no one likes you", "You're such a slut", and "You're not even hot".

Then there is Snapchat. A seemingly innocent application that I, myself, find amusing and time wasting.

However, this little 10 seconds of smiles has become a haven for exchanging "Nudes". I have dealt with students as young as 12 who have engaged with the exchanging of these images. Images that the law defines as child pornography.

I try to think about the equivalent of such fraught activity when I was 13 and I really cannot. Mostly because our photos were not instant. I am mortified to think of having to take a non‐filtered, haven't nailed my angles and lighting picture, let alone to have to wait the 48 hours AND get some creep at Kodak to develop my picture.

But the thing is, young kids these days don't have to wait -- that is not only the appeal but the danger and, as a teacher, when the wait is not there, then neither is the proper thought process behind it. And herein lies the problem. Nudes get sent and students notify teachers and then it becomes our problem.

I then have to make the awkward phone call to a parent explaining that their child has sent through a naked photo to another student and that the police will have to come in and speak to their child about the dangers of being placed on the "sex offenders" list.

I am the one who parents like to abuse, as apparently "How do I know for sure" that their "Daughter would never do such things" because they "Are so very strict on them at home".

The effects of social media sites have impacted so greatly on the time and energies of teachers. As a year 7 co‐ordinator I spent 70 percent of my time talking through issues to do with social media, most of which occurred OUTSIDE school hours.

But the shift in responsibilities from parents to teachers has allowed for such results to occur. It becomes easier for the school to deal with these issues rather than parents to have the uncomfortable conversations with their children about NOT posting pictures of themselves in provocative ways.

Parents call me up asking my advice on issues such as "How do I get my child to go to sleep, when all they want to do is play on their phone or iPad". This is not a sole conversation either. I personally have had around 15 of these types of calls.

It blows my mind that parents want to give away the power that is bestowed upon them. I would always have been more reluctant to do wrong because of my parents' reaction, rather than that of a measly teacher. But it is not that way anymore. We are no longer simply educators.

I guess my concern revolves around the question: Why are teachers becoming parents?

Ahhh, how times have changed.

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