Today marks the beginning of holiday vacation for the students of District 215. Sometime during this two-week vacation, we hope that parents will take the time to educate their students on digital literacy and digital citizenship. Digital literacy is a concept that refers to the appropriate use of media and technological communication tools.
With the proliferation of social networking sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Tumblr, Pinterest, and others, teens are using these sites to not only connect with one another but also to express themselves in creative (and in other instances not so creative) ways. Many teens are completely unaware that content they post in the virtual world will have real-world consequences.
Starting Jan. 1, school districts may request or require students to provide their passwords to their social networking accounts if there is just and reasonable cause that the content posted on the account violates school rules and disciplinary codes of conduct. Public Act 98-0129, passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn this past August, applies to public elementary and secondary schools. The law defines social networking sites as web-based sites that “allow individuals to 1) construct a public or semi-public profile; 2) create a list of other users with whom they share a connection; and 3) view and navigate their list of connections and those made by others within the system.
This law applies to content posted anywhere, anytime — whether at home or at school — by students. Content that is deemed to violate published student codes of conduct will result in disciplinary action. District 215 intends to comply with this act.
The legality of this law will likely be challenged in the courts as critics would suggest it violates our constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech. Nonetheless, it does bring greater awareness to an important issue that many teens (and their parents) take for granted. Communicating appropriately online is a skill that teens should learn to avoid negative repercussions in their high school careers and beyond.