The assembly last Monday morning centered on the topic, “Cyber-bullying and Social Media,” presented by Julie C. Fay. A partner at the Hartford, Conn., firm of Shipman & Goodwin, Fay is a school lawyer who taught at a prep school for over 20 years. She provided provocative and alarming information about different aspects of the internet to the Access and Upper School students.

Today, basically every teen uses social media, so as Fay said, there are “pitfalls we inevitably fall into.” With an estimated 25 billion users by 2018, this new wave of technology is rapidly taking over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, 60% of North Americans have at least one social media account. Furthermore, on average, internet users spend 101.4 minutes a day on social media. Social media is quickly becoming an ingrained aspect of our culture. To sum up the true magnitude of social media, Fay said, “it is changing how we think and how we operate.”

There are many legal ramifications that come along with bullying on social media. There is no such thing as being fully anonymous, so there will always be a digital footprint/memory of whatever you decide to do on social media. She also informed us that when your future employer Googles your name, you need to be aware of what is going to show up, because “what you do in your free time bleeds over into your school or job.” You may think that your school can not get involved if you do something online during your free time, but you are wrong. In some cases, the school does have the ability to disciple if the offense is directly connected to the school.

Fay mentioned some examples of various ways people have used social media negatively. Even celebrities like Michael Phelps have posted things that they probably shouldn’t have — in  his case, a photo of him taking drugs. Social media is more than just jokes and banter, it can be taken to incredibly horrible levels like cyber bullying. Fay said, some people “put others down in a negative way- it is becoming a sport.” Cyber bullying has become a very serious problem, and in extreme cases, has even resulted in victims committing suicide. Many people may say, ‘it was intended as a joke!’ and exercise their right of free speech. But, when free speech turns into action and threatens others, it then can become a problem. However, Fay noted that people do make mistakes, and public shaming has also become an issue.

On the bright side, Fay had many informative tips on how to properly take advantage of social media. “Use it in a conscious and deliberate way,” she warns. One slide of her presentation listed the different things you should think while using the internet. It said: “What does your social media image say about you? Who can see what you post? Is it harmful? Is it putting you at risk?” These are some simple questions to ask yourself, before you end up doing something on social media that can negatively affect your life forever.

When Fay was showing slides about cyber bullying, and students were laughing, she said; “It is pretty funny when it’s not you up there, huh?” So, all in all,  remember to take a step back and think before you do something you might regret on social media.