YouTube and Social Media Restrictions Lifted in Howard County Public Schools

Cell phone policyStudents “like” and “comment” on a photo of Miley Cyrus using their cell phones and media center computers. At lunch and in the hallways, students check updates and add pictures of their friends to Facebook. This is what Wilde Lake High School looks like in 2013.

Starting this year, Facebook and YouTube  are now available for use within Howard County schools.

This new online freedom is a result of the Responsible Use of Technology and Social Media  policy. The policy is chartering a new experimental approach called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). If BYOD sticks and spreads, students might be allowed to bring in their own devices such as laptops  and cell phones in the future. Long Reach High School, Mt. Hebron High School, and River Hill High School are currently test driving the BYOD policy.

Because the use of electronics in schools has historically been outlawed, students and teachers are quickly discovering new possibilities and opportunities. However, a few students have foreseen problems with loosening restrictions.

Senior Ellah Ipah is concerned about social media preventing her from studying. “It’s definitely distracting,” said Ipah. “We already live through our phones, and it diverts us from our school work.”

Senior Lindsay Tuttle is in agreement that loosened restrictions have caused complications. According to Tuttle, permitting social media encourages some students to stand outside classrooms and block the doorway in order to peek at the most recent post on their Facebook walls. “In Art classrooms, there’s duct tape outside the door. As soon as you cross it, phones away,” said Tuttle.

While there are some flaws with the new found freedom, Wilde Lake students and staff are mostly excited for the new online access.

Information about clubs, sports, and academics can now be easily distributed through social media. Junior Anna Haase has been playing girls soccer for three years at the Lake and was a captain her sophomore year. She attests to the struggle of receiving information regarding events and is excited about the change.

“The use of social media in school is helpful because a lot of sports teams have groups on Facebook. Accessing them during school to check changes in practice, games, and pasta parties is faster and easier than waiting for an after school announcement,” said Haase.

Haase is thankful she doesn’t have to run around at the end of the day to find out information regarding her sport. Instead, all she has to do is quickly thumb through Facebook to see that soccer practice has been cancelled or changed.

In addition to being beneficial for students, teachers find the new freedom constructive in the classroom. They can pull clips from YouTube that are relevant to their lesson instead of traditionally downloading videos and attempting to save to their computer.

“I use YouTube for classes when I need a clip of a movie. It’s easier than buying the whole movie and then finding the one scene I needed,” said Social Studies teacher Mrs. Chapman. “Using YouTube has allowed teachers to change the way they teach lessons.”

As Instructional Team Leader (ITL) of the English Department, Mrs. Read believes learning will be different now that students “literally have the internet at their fingertips.”

“The access of social media is a privilege and grants students the opportunity to prove they’re responsible and mature,” said Ms. Read. “I’m curious about where it’s going to go.”