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January 21, 2023 - 3:00pm

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Social media companies should be held responsible for poisoning the minds and souls of youth and causing a litany of psychological ills.

That’s a pretty strong statement and is one being made by Seattle City School District,  the first in the United States to sue “Big Tech” for causing social media addiction to the point where schools can’t fulfill their educational mission, according to Bloomberg News (“Seattle Schools Sue Big Tech Over Youth Mental Health Crisis”).

There have been many other lawsuits filed by families about the negative impacts of social media on youngsters; however, Seattle is making headlines for being the first school district for taking on the likes of Facebook (Meta), Google, Tik Tok and Snap Chat, the Bloomberg article states.

The Batavian asked school administrators in Genesee County how they felt about this topic: is social media causing irreparable harm to young people’s mental health? Can the use of social media be regulated, and more importantly, should it be?

paul_kesler.pngPaul Kesler, Batavia High School Principal, sees the pros and cons of the issue and thinks that perhaps at least some kids should put their devices down.

“While I think social media has advantages for helping students stay connected, it can be problematic for many of our students,” Kesler said.  “Posts on social media can often negatively affect our students' self-concept or mental health.  Some students have become too attached to social media and would benefit from more time with in-person interactions.”  

Also from the city school district, John Kennedy Intermediate School Counselor Michelle Nanni has seen a variety of issues that have stemmed from social media platforms, she said, all of which have age restrictions that are older than JK’s students in grades two to four.

“Even with parental consent or controls, students are often viewing inappropriate and sometimes even sexualized content that is not suitable for children. Even content that would be considered appropriate often curates unattainable lifestyles with an emphasis on perfectionism and materialistic values, which can cause unrealistic ideals resulting in anxiety and depression,” she said. “These platforms also contribute to bullying, as young children are much more likely to send hurtful comments from behind a screen, especially as they will not truly realize the impact left on others without seeing their reactions.”

And reactions, according to the Bloomberg article, have been tragic, citing more than a dozen lawsuits filed by families blaming tech companies for youth suicides. In Nanni’s experience, one of the biggest problems and effects that she encounters is sleep deprivation among students.

“Because they are up all night on social media and don't have the self-control to know when to stop scrolling,” she said. “Social media is certainly having negative effects on the mental health and well-being of the students in our district.”

Lindsey Cummins, the social worker at Pavilion’s Middle-High School, agrees with Nanni. In fact, not only is social media having negative effects, but Cummins believes that it is “exacerbating symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues and concerns.”

“Through my work here at the school and also as a per diem therapist, I can say that social media causes so many difficulties. One of the biggest issues is definitely cyberbullying. Kids are being torn down through a phone, and sometimes do not even know who it is that is speaking to them this way. There are anonymous platforms where cyberbullying is taking place,” Cummins said. “Another issue is the students whose parents have restrictions on phones, and therefore, because they are not on TikTok or Instagram (or whatever the cool app is), they are being shamed and called ‘losers’ and feel disconnected from their peers. I think, in general, social media exposes them to all of the bad things that are going on in the world, which is, in fact, pretty depressing, and causes a lot of anxiety among adults and children.

“Also, the things that are shared on social media can cause a lot of concerns for parents, which then transfer to the kids at home,” she said. “All of this coupled with the lack of mental health support and services, is a really scary reality for our youth.”

rosales.jpegTo sum it up, Elba Superintendent Gretchen Rosales said that it’s a “very complicated” topic and one that kids are not truly prepared for.

“Our children and teens are not wired for the constant barrage of information that comes from being engaged on social media; certainly, there is the aspect of over-stimulation and the lack of creativity that is fostered by the scroll-and-swipe nature activity,” Rosales said. “With this comes the emotional piece of children comparing themselves to others and always being engaged on an emotional level with content that isn't healthy.  We have even seen a societal shift in which people will say things or make personal attacks on someone if they do not agree. It is disheartening.”

That being said, she’s not certain that “we can legislate or litigate good behavior.” There needs to be more understanding of why mental health issues are on the rise, and it seems likely there’s a probable connection between social media and those issues, she said.

“We need to get to the root of why certain individuals use social media as a weapon, instead of using it for good,” Rosales said. “Having a productive and honest dialogue about these issues will be what affects positive change. At Elba Central, our students take a course in digital citizenship; these issues are addressed in that class. We encourage students to use social media as their ‘calling card’ by highlighting their achievements and using it as a platform to encourage and motivate others.”

Elba’s district has an Instructional Technology Committee comprised of educators and parents to work on addressing these very issues, she said.

“We are at a critical point in our children's education in which we need to arm them with the skills to be productive and positive members of a digital society,” she said.  “This endeavor will only be possible with the support of families who know what their children are engaging in, as well as social media platforms that insist on positive and healthy participation.”

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Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith believes that “no doubt, social media has become a major player in the lives of our students,” and also that it’s a part of their lives that is not going away.

“The analogy I often make is that social media is like a car or a cell phone, or any other new invention: we need to treat it with respect, take advantage of all that it has to offer, yet understand that if we mistreat the technology, there can be serious consequences,” Smith said. “As educators, we need to teach students how to deal with the impact of social media in a proactive way, no different than how we teach 16-year-olds the safe way to drive a car.  There is no doubt that social media is causing an added level of stress to our students, as they seek approval, likes, acceptance, etc., via social media outlets, but coupled with strong family support and guidance at school from our counselors and social workers, we need to be able to help our students find balance.”

Having served as an administrator at other school districts beyond Batavia, he confirmed that this has been an issue here and in other districts as well.

“The mental health needs of our students are real, and a broad spectrum of supports from counselors, social workers, and school psychologists are critical in this important work,” he said.  “I would argue that if used correctly and with balance, social media can be and is a powerful tool in our students' lives."

matt_calderon.jpegMatthew E. Calderón, superintendent of Pembroke Central School, spoke more as a parent of seven children than as an administrator.

“My role as a parent is my starting point because it is my job as a parent to ensure my children are properly using the resources I provide for them.  As a parent, if I am concerned that social media is negatively affecting my children, then it is my job to curtail that.  It's also my job as a parent to make sure I teach my children how to communicate on social media in respectful ways and not to use social media to tear others down,” he said. “If I find out that my children are using social media to hurt others, then it's my job to reteach, correct and discipline them.”

He’s not certain that any social media platform is responsible for negatively influencing today’s children, though he did watch an interesting Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” that gave him food for thought about the potential of tech companies using psychology to promote addiction of social media.

“If it can be proven that tech companies purposely used psychological strategies to cause students to harm themselves or to purposely cause anxiety or depression, then those companies should certainly be held accountable,” Calderón said. “However, if the argument is that social media causes anxiety and depression because it provides students a platform to be mean and hateful to each other, then it's not the platform that is guilty, it is the students who are being mean and hateful who are guilty.

"Certainly, many of the ideas that people promote on social media can be harmful to our children, similar to harmful ideas that may be promoted on TV, in movies, in friendship groups and anywhere else where ideas or opinions are expressed.  I think one of the essential keys is to promote respectful communication at all times and to teach our children how to properly handle situations when others are disrespectful,” he said. “Harming ourselves or harming others is not the best approach when other people hurt us, including when others hurt us using social media.  If everyone used social media to encourage and build each other up, then we wouldn't be having this conversation, and the social media we use would be even more addictive.”

To answer The Batavian’s question of whether social media is causing anxiety, depression and other psychological troubles, per the Bloomberg article’s assertion, to the extent that something to be done to stop or lessen it, the obvious answer is yes, Pavilion Assistant Secondary Principal Charles Martelle said.

He believes that something should be done, though he is unsure what that would be and doesn’t think it’s his place to say whether a lawsuit would be necessary to remedy it or not.

“There is some value in social media, and to paint it with one broad brush is unfair.  It can inform, link like-minded people, offer opportunities and open a world of creative possibilities.  My critique is based on my experiences working with children in middle and high school as an assistant principal,” he said. “I do see a lot of unhealthy behavior related to social media.

"The most frequent and striking problem is that it amplifies, exaggerates, takes out of context and records text and images which kids post in their worst moments.  Kids have always said and done things without thinking, only to realize later the consequences of their actions.  That is the normal way kids learn; however, now their mistakes last longer and get noticed by more people.  Additionally, their worst moments get broadcast to people who should never have seen or known about these things.  Social media has an exponential side effect of spreading bad information, and it doesn’t turn off or go away.  Kids are subjected to these shameful moments, drama and comments all day and all night.”

Another point that makes social media so damaging, he said, is that kids are ‘on’ 24 hours a day — in school, out of school, during holidays and during their most intimate family moments, Martelle said.

“They are manipulated by advertising, meaningless posts, endless videos with messaging that is mildly entertaining at best and fundamentally horrific at their worst. 

"A few years ago, some very young students came to me to show me a post showing a man committing suicide.  The video that I saw still haunts me, and I’m 46!  These poor kids didn’t even seem phased by it,” he said.

He also pointed out that, while adults are free to make adult decisions of how and when to use social media, kids are just that -- younger minds in need of more guidance. 

“We all bear some responsibility, and certainly, we should all be thinking about how to go forward so we can address these problems.  Parents buy these phones for their children, handing them over often with little or no oversight.  School officials permit students to use them, and go a step further by using social media platforms to promote school events.  We all need to reexamine how we contribute to this problem instead of only blaming the social media companies.”  

Superintendents from Alexander, Batavia, Byron-Bergen, Elba, Le Roy, Pavilion, Oakfield-Alabama and Pembroke were contacted for this story. 

September 5, 2021 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in social media, Health Care, COVID-19, news.

More than 40 health care organizations along with 40 physicians from throughout Western New York have issued a statement calling on area residents to ignore social media misinformation about COVID-19 treatment and prevention and asking them to follow the recommendations of doctors and scientists. 

Among the organizations: Erie County Medical Center, Veterans Affairs, Kaleida Health, Horizon Health, Lake Plains Community Care, and Independent Health.  

Among the physicians signing the letter is Dr. Michael Merrill, former chief medical officer at UMMC and currently an executive with Independent Health. 

To view the document with the statement and a list of all the supporters of the statement, click here (pdf).

Statement:

These organizations and the individuals signing below say the following message is correct and reliable. Social media posts may be incorrect. Find reliable, science- based information sources, such as the CDC.

We are experiencing a high number of COVID-19 cases in the region. You should wear a mask in indoor public places, even if you are fully vaccinated. Please wear a mask in outdoor settings if it is crowded or you expect close contact with others.

Wearing a mask will protect you. It will protect people around you. And the more people who do it, the more we protect the community. This is similar to littering. If one person litters, no one notices the impact. If many people litter, it creates a problem for everyone.

The risks of the vaccine are far lower than the risks of COVID-19. Please get a vaccine. Even if you are healthy, it is best not to get the COVID-19 infection, because you can spread it to vulnerable people without knowing.

92% of recent COVID-19 deaths in Erie County are in people who are not fully vaccinated.
There is evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are SAFE during pregnancy. Infection with the COVID-19 virus during pregnancy can cause poor outcomes for moms and newborns. One study showed if a mother gives birth while infected with COVID-19, they have a 5 times elevated risk of dying.

There is NO evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility. However, the COVID-19 infection CAN affect future fertility. You are not protected by your racial, ethnic or age group. COVID-19 is not like influenza. It is 10 times more fatal.

Why get a COVID-19 vaccine if we still have to wear masks and practice social distancing? We must use every tool available to control the pandemic. Each tool contributes toward “flattening the curve” and reducing, for example, the number of critically ill patients.

Why should I get the vaccine when people who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19? The COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent serious infection, hospitalization, and death. All of the current US vaccines provide very strong protection against all of these outcomes, with protection against hospitalization and death greater than 90%. Most vaccinated people who do get COVID have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms and are much less likely to be hospitalized or die.

How do we know the vaccines are safe in the long term? In the history of vaccine research, most vaccine side effects appear within a few weeks and almost all appear within six months. We now have data for well beyond six months for people who have received the COVID-19 vaccines, and it continues to show they are extremely safe. More than 360 million doses have been given in the US. At no point were shortcuts taken or safety compromised.

November 17, 2020 - 1:26pm
posted by Press Release in news, Genesee County government, social media.

Press release:

Genesee County today announced the launch of its official Facebook page (facebook.com/geneseecony) and Twitter account (twitter.com/geneseecountyny). The digital social media tools will be used to regularly communicate with the citizens of the County.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the community, the County plans to utilize the pages to communicate important health and safety measures along with general news about the county. Content will be in the form of graphics, videos, news articles and more.

“Given how COVID-19 has impacted our community, we felt the time was right to launch these channels to easily connect with our residents with and get information from their local government in a timely manner,” said Genesee County Chair Shelley Stein.

“Not only do we want to communicate with our community about the pandemic, we also want to showcase the many things that make Genesee County a unique and special place to live, work and play.”

“Creating social media channels is another way for us to communicate to residents and taxpayers, our businesses and visitors to our community,” said Matt Landers, Genesee County manager and Budget officer. “It’s also important that we are streamlining information with other county departments, especially the health department that has its own social media channels. This will enhance the efficacy of our communications.”

September 30, 2019 - 1:29pm

Press release:

Tompkins Insurance Agencies has received the 2019 Excellence in Social Media Award from the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA). The award was presented September 20, 2019 at a gala ceremony held in conjunction with PIA’s Board of Directors meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The award honors a PIA member agency that uses nontraditional communication tools to effectively further the goals of the organization. 

“Our goal was to create a social media presence that is professional, credible, interesting, visually pleasing, educational, and tells our story in a compelling way," said David S. Boyce, Tompkins Insurance president and CEO. "This award validates the success of our efforts, and we are proud to be honored in this way."

The 2019 PIA National Excellence in Social Media Award was sponsored by the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR).

“One of the first groups to fully embrace social media, a few years ago, was independent insurance agents,” said Lauren G. Pachman, esq., PIA National counsel, director of regulatory affairs and a board member of NIPR. “In fact, PIA National was one of the first groups anywhere to bestow an award for excellence in social media, beginning in 2010.”

“Since that time, we’ve seen an increase in the sophistication—and the positive results—of the use of social media marketing by independent insurance agencies,” Pachman said. “Today, we honor a PIA agency that has taken agency social media marketing to the next level, the winner of the 2019 PIA National Excellence in Social Media Award, Tompkins Insurance Agencies.”

About Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc.

Founded in 1875, Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc. is an independent insurance agency offering personal and business insurance and employee benefits services through more than 50 different companies.

The firm operates 17 offices in Western New York, seven offices in southeast Pennsylvania, and six offices in Central New York. A part of Tompkins Financial Corporation, (trading as TMP on the NYSE - MKT), the agency is affiliated with Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins VIST Bank, Tompkins Trust Company, and Tompkins Financial Advisors. Further information is available at www.tompkinsins.com.   

July 21, 2015 - 3:46pm
posted by Billie Owens in education, GCC, social media.

Press release:

From friends to followers, tweets to YouTube, Snapchats to YikYaks -- future students at Genesee Community College will one day have the opportunity to study all the nuances of social media marketing. The College's Board of Trustees has approved a new Social Media concentration within the Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) Business Administration degree.

With the Board's approval, the program will now be submitted to the State University of New York for approval, and later to the New York State Education Department. The College expects the program to available in the Fall of 2016.

The new concentration will provide GCC students interested in business careers with a third option -- one which focuses on the cutting-edge business, marketing and communication methodologies that predominant in today's global marketplace.

The new 62-credit concentration builds from the existing Business Administration curriculum, which provides a strong foundation in business and marketing principles, professional sales, computer applications and a selection of nine elective credits.

New Communication Technologies (COM120) and Introduction to Creative Problem Solving (CPS101) are among the courses Social Media students will take along with: Principles of Marketing (BUS213), Advertising (BUS203), Entrepreneurship (BUS225), Intro to Computers or Microcomputer Applications (CIS102 or 116), Web Publishing (CIS113) and Web Design and Implementation (CIS204).

"We've seen a number of students opt into courses that provide them the most modernized business program giving them a strategic advantage for a cutting-edge business career," said Kathleen Schiefen, Ph.D., GCC's provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

"Built around the same basic business administration coursework, these students will focus on the marketing uses of social media-such as search engines, and become technically competent using the strategic advantage of cutting-edge business degree."

GCC's Business and Commerce division currently includes the following programs: Accounting; Business Administration; Business Administration: Supply Chain Management concentration; Economic Crime Investigation; Entrepreneurship; four Fashion Business programs in: E-Commerce, Event Planning, Fashion Design, and Fashion Merchandising Management; Sales and Customer Service; and Tourism and Hospitality Management. All of the programs are open to new students of all ages, and can begin this fall semester, which starts Aug. 24.

In other business, the Board of Trustees heard a positive report from Kevin Hamilton, vice president for Finance and Operations, on the status of summer construction work for the capital project. Currently, the project involving the complete renovation of the cafeteria at the Batavia Campus and some updates at the College Bookstore is on schedule with completion targeted before the start of the fall semester.

January 18, 2015 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, social media, le roy hs, yik yak.

School officials in Le Roy have put up these posters in the hallways of the high school.

On Thursday, Principal Tim McArdle sent a message to parents about Yik Yak and said administrators were talking with students about use of the social media network, which is designed for anonymous posts that can only be read by people in the immediate area.

While the apps developers say it was designed for college students, there have been issues nationwide with high school students getting on the app and using it for bullying.

Previously:

January 15, 2015 - 3:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, Le Roy, social media, le roy hs, yik yak.

Yik Yak, the controversial social media app that allows users to share messages in complete anonymity to be read by people near their locations, has prompted Le Roy HS administrators to seek parental help in controlling its spread.

Principal Tim McArdle sent a message to all parents today informing them that Yik Yak use has been reported by students and there have been complaints about it already.

"Based on reports by students, individuals in our school community over the last few days have been using this app to bully others and post very degrading comments about students and staff," McArdle wrote in the message. "We have been in contact with other local districts that are experiencing the same situation this week."

The Batavian reported earlier this week that administrators at Batavia HS were aware of the app and monitoring its impact on campus life.

Yik Yak has garnered a good deal of national news coverage because of complaints of bullying and threats by users.

McArdle said administrators addressed students about Yik Yak during lunches today.

"We let them know the negative impacts that social bullying and harassing have on their fellow students," McArdle wrote. "We also encouraged students who may be negatively impacted to come forward and seek help. Students were invited to sign a pledge to delete the app from their phone. In just the first day alone we had a great turnout of students pledging to do this."

The app has been blocked from the school network, but that won't prevent students with mobile devices and their own online access from using the app.

"We now need your help as parents!," the principal wrote. "Please talk about this with your child and discourage their use of this app."

February 14, 2013 - 1:41pm
posted by Kelly Rapone in social media, public relations, copywriting, blog posts.
Company Name: 
Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
Job Type: 
Part-Time

Services to be Performed

The purpose of this contract is for the company to receive support in the areas of online marketing, PR, communications, social media and general outreach support to the Tourism Marketing program of Genesee County

 

The contractor will provide the following services within the budgetary constraints:

March 15, 2011 - 12:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Business, GCC, chamber of commerce, social media.

About 20 local business owners and managers attended a talk by Kevin Manne at T.F. Brown's this morning on social media, sponsored by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

Manne, new media specialist for Genesee Community College spoke about how digital media is empowering customers, how that power can be harnessed to benefit a business and how to effectively promote a business on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and YouTube.

Previously: College hires new media specialist, sees rapid online growth

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