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Commentary: Responsibility for social media not on West Main

When Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney and his staff kicked open the door on discussing students and social media a couple of weeks ago, two distinct thoughts crossed my mind. One—what took so long?  Two—why the school system?
I have one pretty steadfast rule when it comes to social media, personally, and that is no connection with anyone underage. Period. My kids sometimes had to explain to their friends and teammates why “Mr. Joe” sent messages through their parents and not them personally.
While I would like to say that extends to my professional life, it doesn’t, because the reality is there are folks out there that do nothing but keep up with postings and tweets of high school athletes. Oh, the whims of young athletes that keep  adults on the edge of their seats. So, the Herald’s twitter account does include local athletes and students as we glean cyber-space for scores, news and tidbits to follow-up on. 
The sad result of that part of the job is that you see kids at their most honest.  And the adjectives best used for many of them are raunchy, arrogant, self-centered, abusive and unafraid. Some have delusions of grandeur and have no fear sharing what they claim are their drinking, smoking and/or sexual exploits.
This is not an indictment of every kid with a social media account or the title “athlete” attached to their name. It’s not just athletes doing it; they are just the ones I see. And, I do not pretend to stand before you in white robes of purity; I did my share of telling tall tales and snickering at locker room humor in my day. Tell the truth, you did too.  But we never would have shouted it out for the whole world to see.
One mild, classic example:  last weekend a local athlete and serial tweeter sent out that they, “Saw the losers from (another school) at (a public place).  Told them (how wonderful the tweeter’s school is) and gave them the finger.”  Jets to the left, Sharks to the right; let’s get ready to rumble.
Dr. Looney knows what’s going on as well as anyone—he tweets regularly with students.  While that in itself may be a violation of his own policies (as someone recently tweeted to him), at least he’s paying attention. The fact that he and his staff have reached out to parents to explain the potential consequences students could face is admirable. 
The fact that a school superintendent, and even a sports writer, knew before the parents is disappointing.
More than once I’ve looked at a tweet and wondered, “What would your parents say if they saw that?”  That’s the key point here:  parents can see it, by taking responsibility and checking on what their kids are posting to the world. More importantly, others can see it, too, like college recruiters, people who vote on awards, even potential employers in the future. So can fathers of the girls you’re looking to take on a date or just “hang out” with on the weekend.
And that, gentlemen, speaking as a father of two girls, should worry you more than if Dr. Looney or your parents see it.
Joe Williams is the sports editor for the Williamson Herald and can be contacted at

Posted on: 2/20/2014


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