Carroll County Times
Carroll County Sports

Bird Brown: It’s time to get in front of social media’s dark side

It’s amazing what people will put out on a social network.

I’m a Facebook addict, and I appreciate seeing things such as the interesting places that people go on vacation, family shots, or the special occasion like weddings, confirmations, and graduations. I especially love keeping up with my former players as many post about their new jobs, the upcoming weddings, and yes, I’m even old enough that some of them are actually becoming parents.


But it’s a bit overwhelming when people want to tell you what kind of workout they did that day, what they’re making for dinner, or even their bathroom habits. I really enjoy Instagram, because for the most part it’s all pictures and positive memes. I have a very limited presence on that “Twitter” thing. Snapchat is something I can’t wrap my head around, and who knows what’s out there that I’m nowhere cool enough to be on.

Kids are even worse. I have kids that are all active on social media. Actually, they’re now all adults and many times serve as my social media filter on what is and what’s not appropriate. I’m around a lot of kids throughout most of the day so I’ve seen my share of what gets posted on those media outlets and it’s alarming. I’ve written about this topic before, early on in my own social media game, but the message is just as pertinent today as it was back then.


When the cable TV network started to explode and kids had access to some unmentionable channels, parents demanded and the industry responded by placing filters or parental codes to restrict what they had access to.

I remember my youngest (about 5 years old at the time) typing some unmentionables about his brother into the web address on my computer, and the websites and pictures that came up would even make a sailor blush.

It seems like it’s starting even earlier these days. The time has come to have some sort of filter on what is posted out on a social network. Kids thrive in this environment because most of us as parents can’t keep up with the pace of change in technology, or turn our head to what our kids might be putting out there.

Its effects are broad and even have made their way into the recreational sports landscape.

A couple of years ago I had a team conversation with my high school girls about responsible use of social media and warned them that a friend of mine has a fake account and tries to get people to accept his friend request. To a T, despite the fact they had been warned and had no idea who this fictitious person was, every one of them accepted his friend request.

Needless to say, I gave them the business about it the next day.

One of our high schools suspended many players because someone trashed their coach on Facebook and others “liked” his comment. A young coach got caught up in a group chat with his players that may have cost him his job.

We had another incident where a conversation between players that involved injuring an opponent ended up being on an Instagram where the players were suspended.


The trash-talking that goes on between players and members of the student body when rival football games are at stake has been elevated to a whole new level. People are much bolder when they can write something to or about someone else and don’t have to face them in person. But football is not alone.

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We’ve seen it in soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and volleyball, where students research an opponent’s personal life from their social media and then share it in the most inappropriate of ways in the heat of battle.

If only those same students would spend that much time researching in the library.

Policies are being written throughout the country to address these types of issues and our community is not exempt. Many of these are harmless conversations or smart-aleck comments but when they are derogatory to a coach or a fellow teammate or threatening injury, intended or not, to an opponent, we as adults have no choice but to get involved and take action.

I’d like to think we can teach our children the necessary self-discipline to avoid these situations but sometimes they just can’t help themselves. We can take their phones away and throw every possible punishment at them that we know about and that will prevent them from carrying on this behavior. For awhile.

Where it all starts is in the home and at school. If we work together to guide our children through the dangers that lurk beneath the dark side of social media, hopefully we can minimize the situations where kids find themselves where it’s too difficult to get out.


Freudian Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim once wrote, “Punishment may make us obey the orders we are given, but at best it will only teach an obedience to authority, not a self-control which enhances our self-respect.”

Let’s address this before punishment becomes necessary.