From the Director of Student Affairs, Aaron Butt
Last week, Oak Hill Academy welcomed to campus The Social Institute, a nationally recognized organization with a mission to help students and schools navigate social media positively. We continue to value face-to-face conversations, unplugging, and finding the appropriate times and places to connect and use technology, but we are also committed to learning how to effectively and appropriately empower and educate students on how to handle social media, one of the biggest drivers of their social development. We are excited to partner with The Social Institute, who has been a contributor to the national conversation about social media for outlets like The Washington Post, ESPN W, NBC News, The Today Show, USA Today, and many others.
The Social Institute’s goal is to help teens use social media to strengthen their reputations, encourage and inspire others, seize opportunities, and change the world for the better. On Tuesday, the Institute’s founder, Mrs. Laura Tierney, spoke with the whole student body about the powerful voice they have through their phones and computers. Her approach was to recognize and acknowledge the dangers of social media, but to empower students to use their devices as a way to stand up for one another, build a positive reputation, and promote their interests and passions: how to have conversations with peers about positing private pictures, texting while driving, online intimidation and bullying. Through several exercises, called “sprints,” students were presented with various scenarios and asked to contribute positive responses, prompting a discussion about real-life actions to take in order to “win” the situation. The presentation was very practical, thought-provoking, and well-received by our students.
Mrs. Tierney’s visit included smaller breakout sessions with student leaders to hear their points of view about social media and how it is used at Oak Hill Academy, a small boarding school campus. It is clear that social media is here to stay, and adults and students have an obligation to learn how to set standards for appropriate use, both for themselves and as a school community. Standards include when to shut down, protecting privacy, and building an online support network of positive role models.
As a school, we recognize that we have a unique mission–one that includes placing limits on electronics and social media–and we believe Oak Hill is a special place where students can “grow where they are planted.” This structured environment offers an alternative to former distractions. We still believe in the value of monitoring and restricting student technology usage, but through this partnership with The Social Institute, we have a renewed awareness of our need to teach and prepare students on how to positively and effectively use social media. Restrictions are not enough. Teaching and modeling positive usage, with help from our new partners, are part of the equation.