Twitter taunts turn positive in high school experiment

A high school student figures: If Twitter can be used to taunt and bully, it can also be used to spark a positive movement of kindness.

Clay Bennett/The Christian Science Monitor
Twitter and the ocean of online information at the fingertips of students is being tooled to initiate positive change.

Bri Beauchamp thought something should be done after a "girl fight" in the lunchroom at Bay Port High School in early October led to nasty exchanges among classmates on the social media site Twitter.

"That's how people fight these days," she told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "They say things on Twitter they would never say to someone's face. I don't think they realize that they're saying it to everyone."

Ms. Beauchamp decided that if Twitter, which limits people to 140 characters per exchange, could be used to bully, it also could be used to say kind things.

She started the Twitter account @BayPortLove in October and used it to send positive messages about classmates to hundreds of followers. She also asked followers to share positive shout-outs about people they admire.

Bay Port administrators applaud the effort and hope it leads to more positive uses of social media. Local school districts have policies against cyberbullying and so-called sexting, and administrators try to monitor student online behavior. But as mobile devices, especially smartphones, become more prevalent, the challenge becomes bigger, they say.

"Twitter has become the way students communicate," Bay Port principal Mike Frieder said. "I thought what she did was cool. Some students use Twitter for bad stuff, every school has those. This was her way of saying students could do something else."

The Green Bay School District includes cyberbullying in its anti-bullying policy. In situations in which cyberbullying originated from a device not owned by the school or away from school property, but is brought to the attention of school officials, it notes that disciplinary action would be based on how disruptive it is in school. Punishment for bullying and harassment can include suspension and expulsion.

Beauchamp said students can learn to say nice things about each other.

The @BayPortLove account included messages about a student who is "always making people laugh, being an amazing friend, and always being a happy person" and someone "who always knows the right thing to do and I can go to her for advice on anything."

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