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Countering Social Media Ills Among Students Addressed at Conference Panel

Superintendents attended a session Thursday on navigating social media for optimal student safety. Photo by Paige Heller.

The founder of SmartSocial, Josh Ochs, delivered a presentation at the AASA conference on Thursday about social media safety and ways school districts can use technology and social media as a tool to benefit students academically.

Ochs was joined on his panel, which addressed “How Superintendents are Navigating Social Media Use to Keep Students Safe,” by AT&T education specialist Edmon Jones and Scott Rowe, superintendent of the Huntley Community School District in Algonquin, Ill.

The panel started with data from over 250 school districts nationwide, which identified the major social media issues among students. These include screen time and phone addiction, inappropriate content shared in and out of school, chats with unknown users and negative influence from TikTok trends.

Ochs discussed ways to help inform students and parents  how to effectively use social media platforms. His solution was the website SmartSocial, which gives users brief and detailed information on specific social media platforms. The application includes the pros and cons of each outlet and is designed to help parents and students make informed and effective decisions on how to use these media platforms.  

Ochs shared his perspectives both as an educator and a parent of a son. “This application helped me become more knowledgeable to be on his level, instead of the ‘take it away’ parent because that does not work,” he said. One way he suggested to make social media and technology beneficial is to host informative seminars a few times a month to help enlighten students on how they can use technology to “shine online”.

Because about 90% of bullying originates from online social media platforms and direct messaging outlets, schools have struggled with being able to pinpoint and combat the root of the problem. Ochs suggested another way to incorporate technology in the schools using an anonymous or confidential hotline that allows students to reach out to a trusted adult or staff member to report things that may be happening online and in and outside of the school setting. His case study showed about 90% of the tips received are handled before becoming a potentially harmful issue by allowing the staff to be first to learn about vandalism, bullying, depression and smoking.

The panel concluded the session with small remarks about what to look for to make sure students are using their social media platforms effectively and safely. Ochs also distributed to attendees a free demonstration pass to the SmartSocial platform for use at one of their schools. 

Watch a related video.

(Isabella Sandoval is an intern with Conference Daily Online and a senior at Judson High School in Converse, Texas.)

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