CABA's 2016 Essay Contest

This past spring, CABA’s Law Related Education Committee organized an essay contest intended to generate interest among area high school students in law-related issues. The committee co-chairs, Christina Seanor and Jim Rosenblatt, coordinated the review of over 100 essays submitted on this year’s topic. The winning essay was submitted by Lila Robertson, a rising 8th grader at Jackson Academy. Lila is the daughter of Bill and Dana Robertson of Jackson. Lila may be the next attorney in her family, following in the footsteps of her mother and maternal grandfather.

Winning Essay By Lila Robertson

Should a school be allowed to regulate its students’ social media postings made off-campus and after school hours and to discipline students who violate those regulations?

If children grow up being regulated and fearing breaking school policy, they will never be able to make their own choices and develop independently. Without the opportunity to develop decision-making skills, they may make poor choices posting things when they are older. Mistakes made as adults can cost jobs and ruin futures. I do not think schools should be allowed to regulate students’ social media postings off campus or after school hours, because it is important for students to develop personal responsibility without school involvement.

I also think that children should be supervised by their parents outside of school. Parents and schools may have different opinions about what they allow children to post on social media. This could give rise to conflicts. Parents should have the right to determine what their children can post. If a student posted something like, “Happy birthday to this weirdo! P.S. I hate you,” to their best friend, the school would be concerned. However, parents and the involved students would know it was a harmless post or an inside joke. Also, parents whose children have private social media accounts may not want the school to form opinions about their child based on posts. For example, if a school has a “no skirts above the knee policy,” parents who are otherwise okay with shorter skirts, might want their child to be able to post a picture dressed in a shorter skirt without worrying it could result in the school administration thinking less of their child or them. Besides, if the parents purchased the device their child is posting on, they should not be forced to let a school regulate the posts that come from it.

In addition, having students’ social media postings regulated creates a financial burden on the school. In order for the school to regulate every single social media post from every single student on every single one of their accounts, it would take a lot of work. Students can always find ways to bypass the regulations (i.e. blocking the school, using code language, having fake accounts, having hidden devices, etc.) Also, the school is going to have to enforce their policies if students do not choose to follow them. This would take great effort from the many staff members who would have to be hired to implement the policies. Parents would then be forced to either pay higher tuition fees for private schools or higher taxes for public schools. Time and effort could be better spent in another way.

We need to accept that social media is not going anywhere; it has become an extension of children’s lives. Parents need to teach their child how to use their device responsibly. Schools can influence good practices by offering educational courses in social media responsibility, but they need to leave the regulation of those practices to the parents and students. Parents and schools need to help students learn personal accountability by teaching the best practices and allowing students to make mistakes.