Social media educator Sean Smith says configuring WiFi access is a band-aid solution for teaching children and youth to use social media in a positive way. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

B.C. school district blocks access to social media in the classroom

Students can’t access Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook when on school Wi-Fi

High school students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows went back to class this week asking for the Wi-Fi password, only to be told they won’t be able to access social media on it.

School District 42 has configured Internet connections at its six high schools to block access to Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook on devices connected to school Wi-Fi.

Assistant superintendent Shannon Derinzy said the decision was made with support from each principal, after counsellors vocalized concerns that students were too attached to their social media and not paying attention in the classroom.

“It was becoming an issue,” Derinzy said.

What once was passing notes to your friends has turned into sending each other Snapchats during class, and officials are grappling with how to handle students using social media while on campus.

“We’re trying to say these are realities of today – actually a valuable education tool – but how can we use them in meaningful ways,” Derinzy said.

READ MORE: Victoria middle school cutting the chord on cellphone use

Social media educator Sean Smith says configuring Wi-Fi access is a band-aid solution, however, for what really needs to be addressed: teaching children and youth to use social media in a positive way.

“The problem doesn’t lie in the device, or in the application,” Smith said. “The problem only lies in the fact that we are in denial that they exist.”

Smith, founder of The Digital Hallway, said social media posting is an expected skill to have nowadays for most careers, with employers looking at a candidates’ accounts before hiring.

Educators need to adapt to incorporating the technology in the classroom, he insisted.

“If you find that you have two dozen kids that are sitting there surfing Facebook in the classroom time, maybe the problem isn’t with the device, maybe it’s the teacher,” he said. “Why does a kid get distracted? Because they’re bored.”

Smith suggested it can be as simple as adapting school projects – like creative writing assignments – to integrating a students phone.

“It’s about the creation and creativity of a story, and that story can be done on Instagram or Snapchat.”

Blocked WiFi could cost parents in data usage

Derinzy said staff are aware students can just turn to using their own cell phone data, with the Wi-Fi being down. The district will be reviewing the reults of the ban later this the fall.

In the meantime, increased data use over the span of the school year could cost parents hundreds on their phone bills.

There are also apps out there that re-route servers, allowing websites to sneak around these kinds of blocks.

“When you tell a teenager they can’t do something, what’s the first thing they’re going to do? They’re going to find a way around it,” Smith said. “So rather than find a way to block [social media], embrace the technology [and] new ideas into the classroom.”


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