Social media gives rise to complicated situations for today’s students, teachers

social-mediaTeenage gossip used to be scribbled in notes passed during class. Crude jokes were confined to the locker room.

Now snide comments, inside jokes and offensive language can explode online through new, quickly evolving outlets, where it can live on and be seen by thousands. The aftermath can ruin reputations, jeopardize jobs, ­disrupt classrooms and lead to lawsuits or criminal charges.

The controversy that flared last week in Rogers over a student’s inappropriate tweet about a teacher was the latest example of the phenomenon, which has become common among high schools but still catches some administrators and parents by surprise.

“It’s really natural for teens to want to be able to express whatever they want without being held accountable for it,” said Shayla Thiel-Stern, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota who studies youth and social media. “Teachers, parents, adults in general can tell them over and over again to manage their digital footprints, but they still don’t always think it applies to them.”

(Next page: How schools and students are dealing with this phenomenon)