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JayMac: How long should teens be responsible for dumb social-media stuff?

Two Kearns High School students, one a member of the football team, are accused of burning a LGBTQ Pride flag and posting the video of Snapchat.

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Stupid social-media postings make the job of raising kids very tough for parents today. Kids who post dumb things on social media can make life hard for themselves and their parents. Here’s the latest in a long line of examples:

The Kearns High School football coach says there will be consequences for a player who posted online a video of an LGBTQ flag being burned. Someone in the video says, “All gays die.”

Coach Matt Rickards said he has been “more embarrassed and humiliated by this than I’ve ever been. We have one rule in our program, and that is not to embarrass yourself, your family or your team,”  Rickards said. “That rule was broken. There’s got to be consequences for that.”  He added, “It’s potentially a hate crime” and “it sickens me.”

Granite School District communications Director Ben Horsley said the two students behind the abhorrent video have been identified, police have been contacted and both families are working with school administrators to ensure appropriate action is taken.

“When you post something like that online, it does have consequences,” said Horsley. “These are kids, and unfortunately kids make poor decisions on occasion.”

So what should the consequences be for these kids?

Yes, burning a flag is protected under the First Amendment. But it does not protect you from consequences from school, team and society. All it means is the government will not prosecute you. You can’t exercise your right to free speech absent of any consequences.

The short-term consequences for the football player who posted the awful video are that he probably tossed off the Kearns High team and perhaps facing a criminal charge. The long-term consequences could be a lot worse. Remember the internet is forever.

Your job as parents

“This student’s actions are in no way reflective of the Kearns community and high school. This is an unfortunate reminder that we need parents’ help to monitor children’s use of social media to ensure they use it in a responsible fashion,” said Horsley, the school district spokesman.

For all parents, if you are going to hand your child access to social media, please treat it the same as handing them the keys to the family car. Yes, I know, the kid will create his or her own secret account hidden from Mom and Dad, at least temporarily, but that’s not a reason to not try.

The court records for juveniles under age 18 are restricted. Perhaps there should be similar restrictions on accessing the social-media history of juveniles. The right to be forgotten is a concept that has been discussed and put into practice both in the European Union and, since 2006, in Argentina. In the United States, the right to be forgotten has run up against the right to freedom of expression and critics calling it a form of censorship.

I did and said a bunch of dumb stuff when I was young. I’m sure glad today that no one back then was able to post it, film it or record it so it hangs over my head FOREVER. Something lurking out there on the internet that can never be undone. I’m not going to share these things, sorry.

And then there’s this wrinkle: The two students behind the burning of the Pride Flag are now getting threats themselves. Anyone who is threatening these students is guilty of the same wretched behavior. Whatever happened to turn the other cheek or love the other as you would yourself? Whatever happened to mutual respect? Rather than articulating why an action or behavior is unacceptable and against the norms of a civilized society, more and more these days it seems to be met with a threat of violence or insult.

We need to return to a time of finding empathy for those who disagree with us, instead of hatred and division for those who don’t share our own viewpoints. And the time is now for someone to stand up and lead.

Any actions taken in anger and hatred are always wrong. Guaranteed.

As the Kearns High football coach said, Coach Matt Rickards said: “Our number one goal is to build men of character, integrity, be responsible, have empathy for others and serve the community for good.”

Empathy, character, integrity. That’s should be the message of today.


Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.