ORCHARD PARK, NY - As students head back to school this week, something that can cause a lot of anxiety for both kids and parents is social media. With the changing world of technology, schools are constantly adjusting their policies about social media to protect students from cyber-bullying.
Lisa Krueger is an assistant superintendent in the Orchard Park School District where they once again have just updated their computer usage and social media policies.
"Technology is always evolving and it will forever be evolving, so this is going to be an ongoing issuefor all schools and all districts," said Krueger.
For tweens and teens, social media is both a blessing and a curse. In school districts across the country and here at home, the cyber-bullying that often comes with it, is rampant.
Lost are days when students would bully others by simply whispering in the cafeteria or passing a note in class. Now vulgar, vicious rumors are spread over Facebook and Twitter, seen by thousands, and etched permanently on the Internet.
Two On Your Side's Melissa Holmes looked at the social media policies for nine local school districts and found they differ across the board. Among the policies: Amherst Central Schools has a Tiger Tip line for reporting problems and other provisions spelled out in a handbook sent home to parents, but not available on the school's website.
TheBuffalo City School District bans student use of cell phones and also blocks Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites on all school computers.
Frewsburg, the smallest district in the sampling, has its own in-depth technology plan.
Ken-Ton has an Electronic Communication Device Code and bans cell phones, lap tops, and tablets all together.
Niagara Falls city schools have a comprehensive plan and even supervises all student computer usage.
West Seneca schools specifically prohibit sexting among other things.
And Williamsville threatens suspension for cyber-bullying.
It's one thing to have these rules, and it's another to have the students know what they are and follow them. In Niagara Wheatfield for example, they have a Digital Citizen Curriculum, and the course is outlined on the school's website.
All schools must also abide by New York State's Dignity for All Students Act to protect against cyber-bullying. Schools must designate a coordinator to deal with bullying. They must also create a way for parents and students to report it andmany can now do so online.
But a new part of the law just went into effect over the summer and it affects every family in every district. Schools now need to address cyber-bullying that happens outside the classroom.
"It could be something that occurs in the student's home with their own personal technology. But if there's the possibility that it could come over into the school and interfere with the instructional day and interfere with learning we now have a responsibility to follow up on that and to investigate the situation," said Krueger.
It could be so overwhelming for schools that in Orchard Park they're already referring to it as Blue Mondays.
This provision of DASA is very controversial because some parents might feel as if the school is overstepping its boundaries for punishing students for something they do at home- essentially acting as the parent.
To inform students of all these rules, most schools have assemblies explaining the code of conduct. Orchard Park also sends it home to the parents.
"Parents do need to review, sign and return that to us. So we do whatever we can to make sure that is communicated not only to the students but to the parents," Krueger said.
While social media policies vary from district to district, one thing is universal: parents need to know the rules for the school, set boundaries for home, and have conversations with kids about them.
"For parents to be aware of accounts that their children have, having passwords to those accounts, to be able to monitor that on a regular basis is essential," Krueger said.