Friday, May 9, 2014

St. Pius X Catholic High School Principal Mr. Steve Spellman addresses cyberbullying head on with Parents and Students.
A high school principal is rallying parents to fight some of the apps that many children have on their smart phones.  They are apps that enable kids to post anonymous, insulting, public comments about other kids -- comments that amount to bullying.  The principal is going to the heart of the problem: the hearts of the users.  The popularity of the apps that teens use to post those anonymous and vulgar insults and gossip involving classmates often changes with the weather. Today's "in" app is replaced the next day with another app.

And a couple of days ago, the app that shocked the principal of Atlanta's St. Pius X Catholic High School is the one called "uMentioned."  He wasn't aware of it until some students complained to him about it.  The public posts he then saw from other students, he said Tuesday, were "inappropriate" and "vulgar."  So on Monday, the principal, Steve Spellman, fired off a warning to parents about the "explicit vulgarity" of the anonymous bullying that the app was enabling.  But here's where he took his solution a step further.  After urging parents to delete the app from their children's smart phones, he then wrote in his email: "Please have a meaningful conversation with your child about using technology in a positive, ethical manner."

Because, as Spellman said Tuesday, today's app of choice might be "uMentioned" or "Yik Yak," but tomorrow it will be something else; and teens, he said, need to realize that the technology is just a tool of their own good or bad actions.  "And I think our job as [parents and] educators is to teach them how to be moral and ethical in the use of the modern technology that they're going to use the rest of their life." 

The founders of "Yik Yak" say they are doing what they can to sanitize their app, using algorithms, for example, to censor certain banned words that some users post.  "And we have this list of common names -- bullying words, racial slurs -- that will trigger something, and the message will get deleted right away," said co-founder Brooks Buffington.  Buffington also says that, at the request of local schools, he is able to use GPS data to disable Yik Yak in 85 percent of the nation's high schools and middle schools.

Some St. Pius students are already posting anonymous complaints, on the uMentioned app, about the crack-down begun by Principal Spellman.   "R.I.P. uMentioned," wrote one student.  "Thank you to the one-percent of students who decided to be mean," posted another student, "so the other 99 percent who used this for fun are probably going to get told by our parents not to use it."

Next, Spellman is going to have a face-to-face with the 1,100-plus high school students, talking with them -- not so much about apps that allow for anonymous postings, but about themselves.
"Whatever they call it, there are going to be these sites available" regardless of adults' objections, "and I think that we need to share and educate these young people in preserving the dignity of the human person."

No comments: