Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr
Student athletes who participate in social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, tend to attract more attention than their peers. According to newsreporter.com, when those athletes are being recruited by college sports teams, interest can include thousands of adults along with students who are interested in the process.
Just as in real-life, it appears that student athletes need to behave as role models in social media. However, judging from the story – which cites many examples of less than exemplary posts by student athletes - this is a thought process which is relatively new to most.
Unlike teachers, coaches have clear precedent and the authority to discipline their student athletes, for conduct on and off the field – and on and off the school campus. The story cites examples of athletes being sat out of games by coaches, for tweets which include descriptions of sexual conduct, drinking, or which include profanity. Student codes of conduct for athletes provides the structure which makes this possible, in some cases, as well.
However, coaches do not have the time – nor inclination in most cases - to monitor every student tweet and post. Self-monitoring and the knowledge that they serve as role models to their peers – online as well as in real-life – must be instilled in student athletes in order to ensure good social media behavior by these students.
Some additional facts about social media rules for athletes:
- The NCAA enforces rules set by over 1000 recruiting colleges and universities, to regulate how social media is used in the recruiting process
- NCAA players are allowed to use Twitter and Facebook, without restriction – however, individual schools are allowed to establish such bans for their players which the NCAA will help to enforce
- For example, Duke allows their student athletes to use Twitter whereas Miami does not allow their football players to use Twitter
- NFL players are not allowed to use Twitter prior to a game
- NCAA college coaches are not allowed to discuss recruiting on a Facebook Page, nor visits to individual schools
- NCAA college coaches are allowed to use Facebook and other social media for one-on-one communication with students whom they are recruiting
- NCAA schools are responsible for monitoring their students, coaches and boosters on social media
NCAA spokesperson Ronnie Ramos reports that the NCAA started using social media for the first time in 2010. By Jan 2011, they had attracted over 500K “engaged fans.”
Demonstrating a recent trend about which OSS warned our readers on our Alerts! page, a Facebook burnpage targeting CA students at Liberty Ranch High School has concerned parents and local authorities in Sacramento. School officials are reportedly “frustrated” because the page’s anonymity has prevented authorities from taking action.
Principal Brian Deis is quoted, “The problem is this person is not using their real name. They’re hiding behind the name ‘Liberty Ranch burnpage’ and their profile picture is the words ‘I love haters.’ We’re going to continue to search for who that person is. We’re doing everything in our power to make it stop.”
The burnpage has been reported to Facebook, not only by the school’s principal but by “close to two dozen” others who have also complained. Facebook spokesperson Nicky Jackson Colaco, has responded that Facebook cannot comment on specific pages or profiles – and Facebook has not removed the site despite the harassing nature of its content.
Students have mounted their own counter campaign, posting a Liberty Ranch “Peace Page” on Facebook which has received “great responses,” according to the page creator.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that preteen use of social network sites continues to increase:
- 46% of online 12yos use social network sites, like Facebook
- 62% of online 13yos use them
In a news report filed yesterday in the newsobserver.com, Facebook safety spokesperson Nicky Jackson Colaco stated that keeping preteens off the site depends on parent participation.
“We believe that conversations about online safety should occur in the same way that parents discuss why wearing a seatbelt is important or why looking both ways before a child crosses the road is critical,” Colaco said.
No mention of COPPA appears in the news report. COPPA is the US act which requires that sites with children 12yo and younger must keep their data private, among other safety measures. Facebook does not comply with COPPA, which means that children under 13yo are not allowed to have profiles on the site. It is widely known, however, that 12yo children and younger very frequently do have profiles on Facebook. Some studies put the figure as high as 38% of all 12yos; others, like the Pew study, do not specify the exact social network site. However, as Facebook is the largest social network site on the Internet and growing, it is likely that a large percentage of the preteens cited in the Pew study are using Facebook.
Facebook has not provided any mechanism to verify the ages of its users, beyond asking for their birthdates at the time that a new profile is created. Young children get around this restriction simply by lying about their birth dates. Many times, young children do this with full parental knowledge and permission. One young child cited in the story uses his Facebook profile to play Farmville.