Any time you mix hormonal teens and insecurity there will be gossip. Back in the day, we gossiped by passing notes, instant messaging after school on AOL, and you know doing that thing that we sometimes do now…talking. The only things you had to fear was a teacher intercepting a note, who was possibly sitting behind the other screen with that person, and then either being overheard or someone repeating what you said.
Now, gossiping has been taken to a whole other level. There are actually apps for it. Did I mention that you can gossip publicly but anonymously? Only in this era is that a possibility to be able to blast out your thoughts on a person or post an embarrassing photo of someone else for all your “friends” that you do and don’t know from school to see. The best part is you won’t get in trouble for it because nobody knows you actually posted it.
This sounds like a nightmare, and there isn’t just one app that does this. You have several to choose from… Swipe, YikYak, After School, and I am sure there are plenty more I haven’t named here.
Here are a few responses we should have to this:
1) Talk about it.
We need to be talking about this with our students, our volunteers, and our parents. Our students need to know that just because it is “anonymous” doesn’t mean that it can’t ever be tracked back to them, as well as, that we need to be saying and looking at things online that lift up others and the name of Christ. If an app is not doing that, then we probably shouldn’t be downloading it or continuing to talk about what is happening on it. Volunteers and parents need to be made aware so they can encourage students not to participate and keep an ear out for students being bullied.
2) Guardrails are good.
Guardrails are put on the sides of the road to keep people on good ground. Parents and leaders need to help students set guardrails for social media. Whether it being someone else having the password to your students iTunes so they know what apps have been downloaded or deciding as a small group to refrain from certain apps and checking up on that weekly. Guardrails are a good thing and does keep students on good ground and not in the ditch.
3) Review it.
Parents, volunteers, and youth can all write a review about an app. I’m sure some of them have stories of how one has done damage to someone. Why not take a minute and write a little review. When we all come together and bring light to this situation, darkness must flee, right?