Lori Smith, Attorney, Discusses the Pitfalls of Social Media

Pose, click, type, and post. Everywhere you look there’s students and adults captivated by the images and interactions on a phone. Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, texting – the number of ways that we can interact on social media seems endless. We are living in a time that is more “connected” than ever. According to a study conducted earlier this year by Pew Research Center, 95 percent of teens surveyed reported having access to a smartphone and 85 percent  using YouTube, 72 percent on Instagram and 69 percent using SnapChat.
Students and parents had the opportunity to hear from Lori Smith, an attorney with Zimmerman, Kiser and Sutcliffe. Mrs. Smith, a 1995 University of Florida graduate and shareholder in the Orlando law firm of Zimmerman, Kiser and Sutcliffe, has more than 20 years’ experience advising Florida schools on issues from student discipline and handbook policies to social media. She shared her expertise and insight into the digital lives of teens and tweens.
She first spoke with middle school students, sharing the dos and don’ts of interacting on the variety of social media apps out there that students use, like Snap Chat and Instagram. She pointed out how a seemingly harmless photo or statement can be viewed by others in today’s climate – and what tremendous impact a simple text, photo or post on social media may have on the student and his or her family. Examples of social media mistakes ranged from students losing scholarships to being arrested.
The upper school presentation focused more on the long-lasting impact that a social media stumble can have on college applications, the admission process and sports recruiting. Another aspect is the legal aspect that sharing inappropriate content through a post or text can have. Yes, a seemingly meaningless, snide or joking post can have a student still feeling the repercussions days, months and even years after a post is made. Mrs. Smith shared real world, timely examples of teens who made mistakes online, impacting their futures and opportunities.
With the parents, Mrs. Smith elaborated on the lasting effects that social media mistakes can have on the family beyond hurt feelings and typical teenage drama. She focused on the different ways that the local media vs. national media tell a story, highlighting the main difference that national media will show faces of student in contrast with local media. She also shared her experience of seeing social media mistakes result in suspension, loss of leadership positions and termination of private school enrollment. Mrs. Smith provided parents with practical tips for helping their teen navigate the online world, and advised them of troublesome apps to avoid.
There are many resources available to learn more about navigating the digital world as this is a resource that can be used in positives ways, and social media is certainly not going away. One great resource she shared was the website common sense media.
We thank Mrs. Smith for her informative and enlightening presentations to the MVA community.