How Social Media Is Affecting Local Schools and How Parents Can Help

The Washoe County School District is dealing with social media trends that have disrupted classrooms and learning environments. Madison Castagnola interviewed school district personnel about their experiences, trends which condone bad behavior and bullying and how parents can assist in cracking down.

The screen shot on the left shows a warning when you search devious licks on TikTok. The screen shot on the right shows how many views these trends are getting.

It’s a sunny day as school is out at Sky Ranch middle school in Sparks. Many of the students are looking at each other’s phones.

Apps like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have become increasingly popular among middle school students.

With options to post things that will disappear in 24 hours, making private stories for close friends only and going viral recreating popular trends, some students are using these apps in negative ways.

Principal Gina Leonhard connected on Zoom to talk about her experience with social media with her own kids in this age range as well as the middle schoolers at Sky Ranch.

“Almost the majority of my students have cell phones, I have sixth, seventh, and eighth graders… They are very very much on social media and it’s actually the minority of kids who have parents who tell them they can’t be on certain things,” she said.

In Leonhard’s experience, even though bullying has been around for a while, social media has made it easier to bully.

Students talk less and less in person, and communication is often through social media apps like Snapchat where content will disappear after 24 hours.

Because of this Leonhard often needs to have students resolve phone issues they’ve had in person.

“We do a lot of friend mediation and having them get together and talk about what they said.”

At some other Washoe County schools, social media has encouraged trends like the so-called devious licks — where students record themselves stealing from school or the classrooms.

While this teacher didn’t initially realize that things were going missing, she quickly caught on to items that aren’t small just disappearing. She wanted to remain anonymous so we distorted her voice in audio version of our story above.

“In my classroom, I had a couple of things that were stolen like my stapler, I had two pencil sharpeners stolen, my white board eraser, things like that,” she said.

This teacher said it was hard to get students to admit when they were caught. After she had an electric stapler she paid for go missing, she tried to let them confess on their own.

“I asked the students ‘hey can you put that back, I paid for it with my own money for you. Some of them claimed it was never in the room. Ultimately no one gave it back so I had to call my administration in and they searched everyone’s backpacks.”

She said that once the trend became known, teachers in the school would help each other out when things were found, sending mass emails trying to return it to its original owner.

Leonhard, the principal at Sky Ranch, says that most parents are very supportive of the actions the school takes to help fight against bullying or bad behavior. While the school is unable to have strict rules in place surrounding social media they are very proactive in making sure that all parties are taking responsibility for their actions.

“We usually get the information from a parent that something has happened and then we make sure that every player involved, their parents know about it. It’s surprising to me how little monitoring parents do of what their kids are sending or how little they know about what their kids are sending, or where they are sending it from,” she explained.

The biggest takeaway for parents is to be aware. There are many different quirks to these apps so school educators recommend they stay involved in what their kids are doing and sending from their phones.

Reynolds Sandbox reporting by Madison Castagnola

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