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Task force to tackle social media in schools

(March 20, 2015) Worcester County Schools Superintendent Jerry Wilson has put together a task force designed to inform students on how to properly use social media.

“As a school system, one of our missions has always been to prepare students to be productive citizens,” said Wilson. “In order for our focus on citizenship to be relevant in the 21st century, citizenship has to include expectations around the tools that our students are using. Students use social media in their daily lives so it makes sense that we would move forward with helping to teach students cyber-civility or digital etiquette.”

The task force includes five Worcester assistant principals from all grade levels and schools in the county, who will work together to develop strategies that will inform students about appropriate behavior on social media and how to use these sites to be productive in society.

Ryan Cowder, assistant principal at Stephen Decatur High School, was asked by Wilson to join the task force.

“Social media is an important trend and has increased in popularity,” Cowder said. “Technology is one of my passions and social media has an impact on society whether it be negative or positive. It’s important for us to figure out how we can better support our kids.”

The group came about when Wilson read over a few articles on cyber-civility in November. His idea became even more relevant after negative social media incidents at Stephen Decatur High School surfaced recently.

“Social media is constantly changing and it’s important to create a program that spans all of the sites and lasts,” Cowder said. “We must harness the positive since social media has become a powerful force.”

Administrators have begun to engage with the community, parents and students to develop a strategy. Gaining feedback will ensure the task force is heading in the right direction, Cowder said.

“The group would be great for any school system and we need to hold high expectations for students and have an obligation to help them reach those expectations,” Cowder said. “Show them a model and reinforce expected behavior.”

The group will meet as often as possible, knowing they have a deadline. Their goal is to have a strategy in place for next school year, Cowder said.

“We must provide the best equipment so students can set themselves up for success in the future,” he said.

Barbara Witherow, coordinator of public relations and special programs at Worcester County schools, echoed Cowder’s statements.

“We are laying the foundation to help students use social media in useful and productive ways,” she said.

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