Kids and Twitter: Nasty language parents should see


by LaSalle Blanks, 13News

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 1:08 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH - Chances are if you opened your child's cell phone and went to their Twitter account, you would see a flurry of four-letter words.  

These are some of the tweets 13News found before 9:00 a.m. from teens in Hampton Roads:

"F*** Mondays." "My hair is all f*** all,....hats should be allowed in school. "Molly is my s***."    "Look n-word. Chewing gum is NOT a substitute for brushing your funky a** mouth in the morning."

This everyday communication stunned some parents.

"I'm disgusted with it," said Marybeth Kiss.

"We really need to be concerned about the language our children use and how they learn to communicate with each other," added Bernadette Williams.

Teens say if you think those are bad, they've seen worse.  Some have seen kids post nudity on Twitter, others have read threatening messages.

"I've seen kids tell other kids to kill themselves." one student said.

That's where many parents draw the line and get very concerned.

"We're just flabbergasted at how cruel kids are to each other in this day and age," Kiss said.

"It causes conflict and it's not a positive reflection of who they are," said Williams.

Schools become part of the equation when these objectionable tweets originate on school computers. Districts in Hampton Roads block students from accessing social media sites like Twitter on their computers.  

Now, some districts like Norfolk will begin training teachers on the dangers of Twitter.  Dr. Mark Makovec, the principal at Northside Middle School, says it's training he welcomes.  He says he's seen it all on Facebook.  Now he's getting ready to learn the ins and outs of Twitter.

"Situations whether it's kids creating hit lists or the problem right now is sexting, we're aware of it and we're being trained," Dr. Makovec said.

Hampton Roads districts hand out penalties for highly questionable, defamatory or libelous online posts or texts or tweets while using school equipment. Penalties can range from suspension  or expulsion.

Across the country, penalties also include fines and time in jail.

In December, North Carolina passed the "School Violence Prevention Act." Students can be fined or jailed if they tweet or post a comment online intended to threaten or intimidate school employees.  The ACLU in Raleigh protests this measure, citing a students' free speech rights.

In Indiana, a high school senior was expelled right before graduation for his tweet aced with the F word. He thought it was a joke. His school did not.

Opinions vary as to whether schools should take an active role in monitoring Twitter activity. Many people argue it's a lesson that should be taught at home.

"It takes a village and everyone has to participate," Williams said. "Not just the parents. We are step number one."

There is no age restriction to use Twitter. However, when you sign up, Twitter does require you to enter into a legal agreement.  People under 18 are not allowed to enter into contractual agreements without permission from their parents or guardians.