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May 7, 2013

Message not sent

Local educators tout dangers of social media but fear it's not getting through


A Kenmore teen is still recovering from being allegedly run over by her classmate with an SUV last month.

The 18-year-old driver, Liana Nieves, was charged with first-degree assault while the 17-year-old victim suffered injuries to her pelvis and spine. The argument between the Kenmore West teens started on Facebook, Twitter and with a few text messages, Town of Tonawanda Police said.

As that example shows, social media can be a wonderful thing, but also dangerous if used improperly, educators say.

"It's like driving a car," said Gil Licata, Starpoint High School principal. "There are advantages and ways you can use it, but you can be reckless."

According to Social Media Report, 90 percent of all teenagers use some form of social media. There are over 1.2 billion Facebook users in the world, by the way.

Some schools have embraced social media as well. Newfane Middle School has a Twitter account, while there is an official Facebook page and Twitter account for the Starpoint School District.

So, high schools are facing the challenge of how to deal with social media, especially when it brings an issue to school. There are teachers and counselors to talk to in the schools. There's anonymous, online cyberbullying reporting sites for a number of schools, Lockport Principal Frank Movalli said, as well as Dignity for All Students Act coordinators in every school in the state.

In September 2010, Gov. David Paterson signed DASA into law requiring all schools to have one person in each school building be trained to handle discrimination and bullying-related issues. The law aims to provide students with a safe and supportive environment free of discrimination and harassment.

The first — and possibly most important — is educating the students. Tom Stack, the principal at Newfane High School, said one of the main instructors of social media safety is the school's resource officer.

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