Illinois locks down on social media

By Dixie Limbachia

Illinois schools can no longer claim access to their students’ social media accounts, according to a new Illinois law that will go into effect on Sept. 15, 2016.
Previously, Illinois elementary and secondary schools could force students to give administrators access to accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Right to Privacy in the School Setting Act, which went into effect in January 2014, originally gave both public and private elementary and secondary schools the authority to access student social media. According to the law, if a student was suspected of violating a school policy then the school had “reasonable cause” to search their social media accounts.
Since the act was passed, legislators have amended the law to clarify that students would not have to provide the schools with their social media passwords, just allow the school to access the information on their account.
The new legislation, HB 3527, further amends the school code, so that schools will now not be allowed “access to the student’s account.” However, the schools can require students to “share the content” of their account if the school has been notified of specific information about account activity that violates their student code.
Such violations include activity that affects the well-being of a student or the safety of the school. One of the biggest concerns was about cyberbullying or other such events that occurred outside of school hours and property, said Illinois State Rep. William Davis, D-30, a sponsor of the bill.
“The idea here is trying to protect young people and giving them opportunity to be a little carefree, but not allow being carefree to be a complete roadblock when it comes time for graduation and [going] out in the work force trying to live life, gainfully employed,” Davis said.
According to a Pew Research study conducted in May 2013, teenagers are increasingly sharing more information about themselves on social media accounts, but most teenagers don’t tend to express a high level of concern that third parties can access that information.
Siena Roberts, senior at University of Illinois Laboratory High School, said when she posts on social media, she is continually concerned with the consequences her posts could have in the future.
“Especially because I’m applying to college right now, I’m careful not to post or be tagged in anything that could give the wrong image or idea. I obviously think that we should be free to post whatever we want, but at the end of the day what you post does affect your life outside of that social media platform,” she said.
However, Jonah Koslofsky, senior at University of Illinois Laboratory High School, thinks that the administration may have had the wrong about the activity on social media.
“I would just say that I think there are a lot of misconceptions around cyberbullying out there, within the administration, like its a buzzword that adults heard and felt like they had to crack down on,” Koslofsky said.
Roberts sees both aspects of the policy, through the eyes of the administration and students.
“I think it is often forgotten that social media is more public than people think. It does make me uncomfortable to think schools could log on to my account and see personal messages and stuff,” Roberts said. “For now, I think school should stay at school.”

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