Teenagers are no longer using social media just to post pictures and connect with friends. A new wave of "confessions" Facebook pages are popping up at colleges and high schools around the country, where students share their deepest secrets, and they do it all anonymously.
Yet this latest online trend is more than an outlet for embarrassing stories. At schools in our area, administrators have found it's also a gateway for dangerous behavior.
One of these confessions pages for D.C. Everest High School has received more than 1,300 "likes" just in the past week. But there are a number of people who also dislike what's being posted on the site, and want it shut down.
"We have no control over what's posted on there," said principal Tom Johansen. "Postings are anonymous and you can't track back a URL. However, the steps that we have taken as a school and a district to help protect our kids from bullying is we've contacted Facebook and the Google site because they use Google to get around in Facebook so that is anonymous."
While many of the confessions are harmless and funny, others mention sex, drugs or target individuals. Several are even too inappropriate to repeat.
Johansen believes a lot of the more scandalous stories are simply untrue.
"The greater concerns are the attacks on certain students," Johansen said.
Facebook users have also taken to the page to express their disapproval. One parent wrote his/her daughter tried to commit suicide because of something that was said.
"I just don't like the idea of people talking smack," DCE student Joel Dack said.
"It just feels like our school integrity is being lowered," said DCE student Bailey Mohr.
Dack and Mohr were shocked to discover what their fellow classmates were doing, and where they were doing it--often in the halls of the high school. But they aren't too surprised that such a site exists, in part because similar ones have been created for SPASH, Mosinee, Antigo and Wausau.
"There was a page for West and a page for East and both have been taken down, but new ones have cropped up," said Bryon Kolbeck, the director of technology and media services for the Wausau School District. "Today there was another page that was created last night."
Kolbeck says it's nearly impossible to trace the person or the group of people behind the pages, and that also makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable.
"Somebody could create a fictitious account, create a Facebook off of that fictitious account," Kolbeck said. "There's not a lot of ownership in this process. And I think that's the most difficult piece."
The best thing parents can do to protect their kids is to monitor online activity--from who they're talking to, to which sites they're visiting, to what they're doing on those sites.
If you see anything alarming, contact the schools so they are also aware of it.
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