British Columbia

No more social media: B.C. school district restricts Wi-Fi access

Five high schools in Maple-Ridge and Pitt Meadows are cutting off students from one of their favourite things: social media.

District 42 blocks access to Netflix, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram

'We need to make sure that [social media] is contributing meaningfully to our lives,' says Horton. (Shutterstock)

High schools in Maple-Ridge and Pitt Meadows are cutting off students from one of their favourite things: social media. 

School District 42 has re-configured its school Wi-Fi networks to block access to popular sites such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Netflix.

Irena Pochop, the senior manager of communications for the district, said the changes come at the request of the secondary school principals. 

"They were concerned that certain social media platforms were a distraction in the classroom, so they came to the district to see what we can provide at the district level," Pochop said. 

Education tool or distraction?

Not all educators agree with the blanket ban, though.

Former chair of the Vancouver School Board Patti Bacchus described the change as a "crude block" that is unlikely to be successful. 

"There is a lot of constructive uses for these sites that can be incorporated into education," Bacchus said. "Students might have legitimate reasons to be using these and, if they are determined to use them even if they are not using them legitimately, they will find a way to do that."

The restrictions won't affect students using cellular data plans to access the sites. 

Classroom expectations

Bacchus said instead of banning social media, teachers should lay out expectations about their use in the same way they would with any other classroom rules. 

"As we evolve and technology evolves, it's important that we stay on top of it in a constructive way," she said. "Like in any workplace, there are clear expectations, or there should be, about when it's appropriate to be using the devices and when it's not, and that's part of learning."

Jesse Miller, a social media expert who has worked with students in the district, said the new policy is fair as he thinks most social media use in the classroom is for entertainment and not education. 

"They're not saying you can't access social media and utilize it for the purpose of education," he said. "If at the end of the day, we just have kids getting frustrated that they can't get on Snapchat, that's not a school issue."

The school district will revisit the policy change with the secondary principals as the semester progresses.