Communicating Digital Citizenship With Teens

As the Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in the case Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., students, parents and school districts alike have their eyes on the precedent that will be set regarding free speech. The case sprang into action shortly after, then high school sophomore, Brandi Levy was removed from the cheerleading team as a result of a Snapchat video that she posted. In the video, Brandi used obscene and derogatory language in direct reference of the school. 

The court will soon decide if the Snapchat video falls under free speech or if she should be penalized for obscene language outside of school. Additionally, this case calls into question whether or not rules initiated on the school campus apply to social media posts. 

A recent article by Tim Elmore proposes that we may be making the wrong argument. While Elmore expresses an understanding for the litigation involved, he writes, “Shouldn’t we be more concerned about digital citizenship, regardless of where those students are? This feels a little like a parent who says to their teen, ‘Sweetheart, don’t smoke while you’re on the school campus, but feel free to light up when you’re off campus.’ Smoking is unhealthy wherever we are, isn’t it?”

According to Elmore, “We either teach our students the value of civility wherever they go (in-person or digital), or we teach them they don’t have to be civil.”

Advocating for character development, civility and self-management are essential to developing students that graduate prepared to deal with emotions in the workplace and beyond! "If we don’t figure this out," Elmore writes, "we’ll continue to see cyberbullying, narcissistic outrage, sexting, and even threats of violence increase."

If you have a middle or high school age child, consider discussing this court case with them. Have they heard of this case? What are their thoughts? As summer begins, do they believe that they are living out the same values during and outside of school setting? Are they proud of their current digital footprint?