Parents beware: An anonymous Twitter account set up Feb. 6 to log the alleged sexual experiences of Clark County teens is gaining momentum. The account had 3,711 followers and had posted 1,471 tweets as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Students can post directly to the account, which The Columbian is not naming. But most post anonymously by posting via other social media accessed with smartphones.
Despite complaints, the owner of the account has managed to keep the Twitter site active.
Many of the posts are graphic descriptions of sexual encounters by both sexes, and many are claimed to have occurred at school or while parents or other adults were in the same room. Some claim to have had sexual encounters with adults, including teachers. Other posts are about drug use. Students claiming to represent most Clark County public high schools have posted.
The two largest school districts, Evergreen and Vancouver, issued statements about the site Tuesday afternoon. Both districts noted they do not monitor social media sites. Vancouver Public Schools said it would report the nature of the account to Twitter. Evergreen Public Schools said it will investigate any bullying.
The Columbian’s message to Twitter was not returned.
After news of the account spread to traditional media, a girl named Emily posted: “People are making way too big a deal about this. The page was made for fun, not to hurt students. Get a sense of humor.”
Although students are not identified, the site rates individual high schools on how “ratchet” they are, a term students use to suggest something that’s raunchy and dirty.
Some students have posted negative comments about the Twitter account:
“I’m literally ashamed to be going to Camas right now.”
“After reading (the posts) I’m scared to death of using the bathroom at school.”
“Scared for all the stupid things people are gonna do at school this week just so they can admit it.”
“The one guy who runs (the Twitter account) could ruin almost every high-schooler in Clark County! With great power comes great responsibility.”
Sign of the times
“It’s a telling sign of how much access kids have to their technology devices independently, 24/7,” said Debbie Tschirgi, director of the Digital Learning Services program at Educational Service District 112. “The challenge is the parents’ ability to monitor what their kids are doing with their devices. Kids are alone with their devices many hours during the day. Unless the parents have some kind of family policy of how their devices are used, it’s not a surprise that this is happening.”
“It’s a little on the creepy side,” said Michael Rabby, a faculty member in the Creative Media and Digital Culture department at Washington State University Vancouver. “It’s a very sexually degrading site. A lot of this is clearly made up. Some of it’s real. Some of it’s not. Some of it’s there just for shock value. You have to do a lot for shock value these days. There’s a tendency for the level of conversations to diminish in these types of anonymous environments.”
“There’s nothing on the Internet that would be considered shocking,” Rabby said. “Because it’s local and it appears to be high school students who started it, I think that’s the issue.”
Rabby said removing the site for good is not easy.
“Sites disappear when the server host realizes what’s going on,” he said. “They find another server. The problem is, it’s like a hydra. You chop off a head, and two necks appear.”
Advice to parents
“As a parent, I would make sure you know who your kids are following on Twitter,” said Rabby, of WSU Vancouver.
“I would make sure your kids have unlocked Twitter accounts that you’d be able to supervise. That’s a sad thing about the Internet, as a father of two young kids myself. In the olden days — and by that I mean six years ago — you could keep the computer in the family room. Now with smartphones, what do you do? Never have them take their phones into their bedroom? The best advice I can give is you have to teach your kids to deal with a lot of smut that they’re exposed to. Educating your kids to be respectful of each other. And to look at these things as an opportunity for conversation with your kids.”
Last year ESD 112 offered Parent U online courses for parents to learn more about the benefits and pitfalls of the Internet and what parents can do to monitor their children’s online presence. The fee-based program wasn’t self-sustaining, and it was discontinued, Tschirgi said. She said she would research whether the ESD could arrange for a speaker to conduct an online webinar for parents to watch from their home.
“We had a fair amount of success sharing information like this,” Tschirgi said.