For generations, students have been told that whatever they did in school could end up on their “permanent record.”
The prospect of their future being tarnished, if not derailed, by education-related misbehavior was intended to keep students in line. Who knows how well it did its job — and maybe continues to do it, though the term is as much a cliché as a threat today.
But there is a new permanent record that everyone should be concerned about — social media.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and who knows how many other sites allow people to connect over long distances with family and friends — and complete strangers.
There are privacy controls but nothing that filters the false from the true other than some skepticism and fact-checking on the part of the recipient. Too often, those are lacking, if not nonexistent.
That aspect of social media seems to be what was in play in a recent alert about a school-shooting “threat” at Venice High School.
As the story unfolded, according to school officials and the police department, a remark was taken out of context and then, like the old game of “telephone,” was amplified by retelling through social media into a threat that never existed in the first place.
At some point a person in the Northeast even got involved, posting a photo of an assault-style rifle that heightened concerns Principal Eric Jackson had already tried to allay.
About a quarter of the student body stayed home the next day and about another quarter left during the day. That’s a day of education lost over a rumor.
Officials have been quiet about the remark that started the ball rolling as well as how it rose to the level of being perceived as a threat and got reported.
Kudos to the student who did that, in an abundance of caution. We just hope that the people who helped amplify the remark to the point that the police had to get involved have learned a lesson about how social media tools can be used negatively as well as positively.
Yes, there are some privacy controls, and posts can be deleted. But the only safe course of action is not to post anything you wouldn’t want to come back to haunt you later, because it very likely will.
In a Paychex.com survey last August, 85 percent of hiring managers said they check an applicant’s Facebook profile during the hiring process. Forty percent check Twitter and Instagram, while only 6 percent don’t check at all.
And they’re finding things that end the hiring process: photos of excessive partying and illegal drug use; cyberbullying; racist and sexist posts.
Social media is a smaller but still significant part of college admissions.
According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey conducted last year, 68 percent of admissions officers said that checking an applicant’s social media presence was fair game, though only 29 percent said they’d done it.
That percentage is trending downward, likely because students are using more platforms that don’t archive posts and doing a better job of keeping their accounts private.
Still, 9 percent of the officers said they had revoked an offer of admission based on something seen on social media. Most notably, in 2017, Harvard revoked the admissions of 10 students who were part of a private Facebook group with posts mocking the Holocaust and minorities.
Now, there’s a certain amount of karma involved in people paying the price for doing stupid things. But there’s also the sad reality of a life thrown off track due to a poor decision, especially by an immature mind.
Our suggestion: When in doubt, don’t post. And be in doubt a lot more.