New Media Use by School Employees

By Nora Carr

When it comes to new media mayhem, it’s not a matter of if, but when. According to recent research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 75 percent of online adults age 18 to 24 have a profile on social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.

As digital natives, today’s teens and young adults -- school districts’ future employees -- live in a highly connected world where using a vast array of mobile devices to stay in touch with family and friends is like using the telephone was (and is) to most baby boomers.

While making plans with friends is generally a harmless activity and the First Amendment clearly protects free expression, the postings on many of these sites give new meaning to the term “youthful indiscretion.”

From drinking binges to sex, every waking moment can be captured via cell phone and posted online instantaneously. In the new Wild West of the Web, the notion that some things are best kept private or that few people are really interested in a minute-by-minute description of someone’s date or day seems positively Victorian.

That could be why more district employees are stumbling into new media mishaps. In the past two years alone, teachers, coaches, custodians, principals, and superintendents all have been disciplined or fired for surfing porn sites, cyber-stalking via e-mail, or posting lewd photos and derogatory comments about their students or co-workers on websites, blogs, videos, and other online content.

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