Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Don't Say It!

2nd Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by two years in prison and a $5000 fine.  That's the potential ramifications of a single careless post on social media that is determined to be a terrorism threat to a school, according to Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, in a recent interview with Lancaster Newspapers.

Somehow, the prevalence of threats -- whether they are real or not -- towards schools in Lancaster County has spiraled out of control in the last week.  As an educator charged with teaching the responsible use of social media, I'm not sure where to even begin this year in teaching my freshmen about the fastest way to ruin the future through their use of social media.

What started allegedly as a student wondering whether anyone would react, posting a threat on an anonymous app, assuming his post would truly be anonymous, was anything but that.  In fact, within a little more than a day, the location of the computer and identity of the student was in the hands of the local authorities, with an arrest in the books.
But not until after dozens of administrators and police personnel, coordinating with the IT specialists, spent dozens of hours employing deductive reasoning skills to solve the mystery.

Nothing is anonymous.  Everything is recoverable -- despite what the IT specialists might tell you when your computer crashes. Especially when public safety is potentially at risk.  And that doesn't just apply to threats.  It applies to that stupid argument with your cousin, or the snarky comment about your boss, or the picture that paints you in a light less than favorable for a job you might want ten years from now.

In the "olden days," threats might have been phoned in, or sent in a hastily glued cutout "ransom note style" anonymous tip, or a message scrawled in lipstick on the school bathroom mirror.  These were only seen by a few people, and didn't generate the sort of mass chaos and reaction that happens with the instantaneous nature of social media today.

So think, talk to kids about thinking, and remember that once it's said, it's not going to be taken back.  Nothing is erasable or deletable, and everything is traceable.  And the implications of the lost time and resources spent in man hours by the  investigators are incalculable. 

A single post can change a life.