Social media has become a common platform for hacking, which affects nearly 60% of social media users, according to the University of Phoenix. Recently (fact check), Junior Vivian Cheng received a message on Instagram with a link and the text “Hi, I created this just for you” from someone she followed.
“Initially, I was like, I’m not going to click on that looks like something like a hack,” Cheng said. “Two weeks later, [my account] did the same thing [and] sent the link to around 200 people.”
According to Assistant Principal Janice Chen, this hack, while it only lasted on Instagram for a short period of time, raised the topic of students’ online security. Chen believes that a big part of being safe online is students’ awareness of their susceptibility to getting hacked.
“[Hacking] could be dangerous,” Chen said. “The Instagram hack wasn’t really dangerous because it was just annoying to undo, but I think it’s a threat because it shows how easily someone can get hacked.”
Another common form of an online threat is the creation of accounts that impersonate another student. School resource officer Deputy Corey Chao describes her experiences dealing with several instances where students created accounts pretending to be other people.
“At the high school level, there’s [a lot of] people making fake accounts and saying that they’re a different student or just being mean online,” Chao said. “And a big [problem] is sending inappropriate pictures [through these] fake accounts.”
Chao explains that the punishment for identity theft can be extremely severe. On the school level, Chao explains that the creation of fake accounts can result in suspension and even expulsion. At the legal level, officers can go as far as to cite students.
At MVHS, Chen says that the administration would only be involved if the matter is in any way school-related. Otherwise, she believes that parents play a very important role in monitoring students’ social media presence.
“It is the role of parents to teach their kids responsible use of online stuff and making good decisions and judgments when they’re posting things,” Chen said. “I do think that parents should actually [be] following their kids [and] be aware of what has been posted and what is being said.”
Chao explains that one of the most prominent issues with teenagers online is threats and cyberbullying. According to the GaurdChild foundation, more than half of adolescents and teenagers have either experienced some form of cyberbullying or engaged in it. Chao says that because creating an anonymous social media account is so easy, students often tend to use anonymity as an avenue for bullying.
“In order to get an Instagram account, all you need is an email address,” Chao said. “It’s so easy to get a Google email address or anonymous one and to post mean comments and inappropriate photos. We see that all the time.”
Chen believes that a simple solution to avoiding some of the potential downfalls of social media is to avoid it completely. However, she also understands that social media is often an important part of student’s lives, so awareness of what is appropriate to post is crucial.
“It’s a complicated thing, [but] I think, to prepare for the future, our students need to be aware of what is an appropriate use of social media,” Chen said. “I do think, though, however, there are times when students may feel like I’m getting the [short end] of the stick here, for whatever reason, like bullying, a simple solution is to avoid social media. At the end of the day, it’s about using it and using it in a positive way. And being responsible.”