Archive for Social Media Concerns

SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERNS: The Inherent Dangers of Social Media for Young Athletes

Tom Pincince is a long-time assistant director of athletics at Central Connecticut State University. A former three-sport athlete and college football player, he has been involved in sports for much of his life.

But along the way – especially because he has three young daughters 0  he has quietly carved a niche for himself as an expert on social media, and how vital it is for parents and coaches to educate young athletes about the dangers of social media. Over the last several years, Tom has done presentations to dozens of schools throughout Connecticut, and his website ( has become quite popular.

A generation ago, terms like Twitter…Facebook…Vine…Snapchat…Instagram….and so on just didn’t exist. And yet today, all of these media outlets are everywhere AND the younger generation is not only well aware of these social media outlets, but are fluent with them. Problem is, too many young people – especially middle school and HS athletes — will post upsetting comments online without really thinking through the potential consequences. That is, for example, a young athlete might post something on Twitter that voices his or her displeasure or unwanted comments, and think that only their close friends are reading it. Then the athlete finds out that when you post on Twitter, it’s akin to standing on a mountain top and shouting to the rest of the world your inner-most thoughts and sentiments.


There are countless examples of top athletes who have lost college scholarship offers due to misguided tweets. There’s a famous case of a college football player from Elon who tweeted how unhappy he was with his lack of playing time, and made some other terrible comments about his coach, and that went viral. Not good.

Because once something is online, it’s there forever. And too few teenagers or college kids seem to understand that a social media posting can really come back to haunt them when applying to college, or for a job, or whatever.

Pincince makes the analogy that parents give kids a cellphone when they are young and simply say, “Go have some fun.” Says Tom: “But you wouldn’t give the keys to the family car to a young kid without first training them on how to operate the vehicle, make sure they have plenty of safety training, and so on. So how come we don’t do the same thing with our kids and cellphones and social media?”

He makes a most valid point. I have personally turned down job applicants a few years out of college who, once I checked out their Facebook page, realized this was someone I didn’t want to be associated with. Kids need to know just how public all of their posting is.

I know being a sports parent these days is becoming more and more complicated, but please take the time to talk with your kids about social media and explain to them how to be very, very careful when posting anything at all via social media.


SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERNS: Ban Cellphones from Locker Rooms Now

Why Youth Teams Should Ban Smartphones and Similar Mobile Devices in Locker Rooms

By Doug Abrams

About 15 years ago, I was a local high school hockey team’s goaltending coach. On the bench during a game, I noticed that a player had unbuckled his helmet and was talking on his cell phone in between line shifts.

It turned out that the player was chatting with his girlfriend, who was sitting in the stands on the opposite side of the arena. The head coach and I asked him to put away the phone and turn his full attention to the game. We assured him that his girlfriend would not feel lonesome if the two remained apart for another hour or so.

21st Century Technology

Technology has surely changed since our player harmlessly called his girlfriend in the stands. On November 15’s “Sports Edge” show, Rick Wolff and I discussed surveys which indicate that between 30% and 50% of high school students engage in “sexting,” using their smartphones or other mobile devices to take nude or semi-nude films or photographs of themselves. They then send the images to a dating partner, a desired dating partner, or one or more other classmates. Further circulation by a recipient may deprive the sexter of any control over where the images land.

Rick and I stressed the short-term risks of widespread circulation, including taunting, public ridicule, and even vicious cyberbullying of the sexter. We also stressed risks that the images’ permanency might complicate future college applications, employment applications, and personal reputation years later.

Locker Room Abuse

Shortly after the sexting show, I received a thoughtful email from Steve Ketchabaw, co-director (with his wife, Sharon) of the Rye Rangers Hockey Club since 1992. I have known Steve since 1976, when I coached him at a Connecticut summer hockey camp when he was 14 years old. A few years later, we coached together at the camp. Steve knew right from wrong then, and he still does. He and Sharon are well-deserved co-recipients of the 2015 Emile Francis Award for longtime service to youth hockey in the tri-state area.

Steve’s email raised an important safety issue that Rick and I did not have opportunity to discuss in the time allotted. The issue can arise on youth league or high school teams in any sport that assembles players in the locker room before and after games and practice sessions. With a smartphone or similar mobile recording device, a player can surreptitiously film or photograph a partially or totally undressed teammate, and then can circulate the images electronically without the teammate’s prior knowledge. The invasion of personal privacy can cause lasting damage resembling the lasting damage that sexting can cause, even though the locker room victim (unlike the sexter) had no part in producing or transmitting the harmful images.

Locker Room Policies

The potential for abusive invasion of privacy has led USA Hockey to enact a prohibition. The USA Hockey SafeSport Program Handbook provides: “Cell phones and other mobile devices with recording capabilities, which includes voice recording, still cameras, and video cameras, increase the risk for some forms of abuse or misconduct. As a result, the use of a mobile device’s recording capabilities in the locker rooms is not permitted at any USA Hockey sanctioned event, provided that it may be acceptable to take photographs or recordings in a locker room in such unique circumstances as a victory celebration, team party, etc., where all persons in the locker room are appropriately dressed and have been advised that photographs or recordings are being taken.”

USA Hockey’s SafeSport Program calls on local programs to “adopt specific policies regarding the use of mobile electronic devices and phones and prohibiting the use of a device’s recording capabilities.” The Rye Rangers’ locker room policy, for example, provides: “Cell phones and other mobile devices with recording capabilities, including voice recording, still cameras and video cameras, are not permitted to be used in the locker rooms. If phones or other mobile devices must be used, they should be taken outside of the locker room.”

Keeping Pace With Technology

I suspect that in various sports, many youth and high school teams and leagues have not thought much about the risks that mobile electronic devices pose in locker rooms where partial or total undress happens. A player has no reason to have a smartphone or similar device in the locker room before, during, or after practices or games. If the player brings a smartphone to help arrange for a ride home or for some other reason afterwards, a coach or designated parent may hold it and return it afterwards. If an injury requires a call for emergency assistance, the call would be made by a coach or parent, and not by the injured player anyway.

Some parents warn their children to remain on the lookout for teammates’ surreptitious locker room photographing or filming. The onus, however, should not be on individual families to remain vigilant against unwanted personal intrusions. Constant vigilance necessarily deprives players of the camaraderie and team unity that make locker room experiences so worthwhile.

A team-wide no-mobile-device rule is preferable, and every parent and player should recognize its necessity. Indeed, if the team does not have such a rule, parents should insist that one be adopted and enforced. Invasion of privacy is not a mere youthful prank, and the victim suffering social ostracism and potential lifelong consequences can be any parent’s child.


Sources: Go Skate!, Steve & Sharon Ketchabaw Named Recipients of 2015 Emile Francis Award!, (Feb. 9, 2015); USA Hockey SafeSport Program Handbook, ; Rye Rangers Hockey Club, Locker Room Policy,





SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERNS: The Plague of Sexting is Commonplace with HS Athletes

The national epidemic of “sexting” — HS kids sending photos of naked classmates via text messages — has become the latest trend in social media that coaches, parents, and the law have been struggling to deal with.

As law professor Doug Abrams pointed out on The Sports Edge this AM, back in the 1970s legislatures passed very strict and tough laws regarding the transmission of photos of nude people under the age of 18. In those days, this was considered the domain of child pornographers, and not surprisingly, individuals convicted of these kinds of activities were looking at long yeas in jail and being registered as sex offenders.

But fast forward to today, and seemingly kids everywhere are texting revealing photos of themselves, often to unsuspecting classmates. As hard as it may seem, it’s become routine for HS girls to send topless photos of themselves, often to HS athletes in order to impress them.

Abrams did point out that prosecutors all over are drawing a line between child pornography and the silliness of teenagers swapping photos. As such, more than half of the states now have legislation drawing a distinction between the two kinds of activities. That being said, HS coaches and athletic programs are having a difficult time when it comes to this sudden changes in traditional social mores. This explains why HS football players, who have been caught sexting, have seen their games cancelled and forfeited. Coaches point to their poor social behavior. In one case, the football players were allegedly making the collection of sext photos into a competition; that is, the more you had, the more you “win” the competition.

And there are other complications. Suppose a football bully in the HS locker room decides to snap a photo of a teammate getting undressed – and then puts it out online without the teammate’s permission. Or takes a photo of a teammate who is in bathroom stall. I have the worrisome feeling that this kind of thing already happens.

Who’s in Charge?

Professor Abrams made it clear that the person who should be in charge of sexting discipline may not be the coaches. That is, it’s really up to one’s parents to sit down and explain the possible devastating consequences of sexting. As Doug says, “Once it’s out there in cyberspace, you lose control of it. It can go anywhere, and can be posted forever.”

I would like to think that parents who are aware of  the prevalence of sexting would take the time to sit down and explain to their kids how a quick photo of oneself could backfire in so many ways – not just now, but later in life.

Doug imagined in the year 2050, a potential US Supreme Court nominee might  be hugely embarrassed if, during their confirmation meetings, some naked photos of their teenage years resurfaces.

The point is, as advances in social media continue, and they will continue, it’s now more than important than ever for Moms and Dads to step up and to talk directly with one’s students. Better yet, this is one of those issues where parents and coaches should come together and explain the potential issues to their HS kids.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERNS: Think…. Before You Tweet!

 Youth Leaguers Beware:  Social Media Can Ruin Your Life

 By Doug Abrams

Are you a high schooler who wants to attend a good college, perhaps on an academic or athletic scholarship? Are you a collegian who wants to remain in good standing? Want to attend graduate school afterwards? Want to land a good job before or after college? Want to earn a military commission? Want to hold a professional license that requires proof of good character? When your hair turns gray years from now, will you want to encourage your own children and grandchildren to follow your life’s example?

This column concerns one way to help assure that these and other worthwhile lifelong goals remain difficult, and perhaps impossible, to achieve – use social media to harass classmates or others. By hiding behind the presumed anonymity of the keyboard, cyberbullies can ruin their own reputations permanently.

Cyber anonymity is not always what it seems. Because bullies crave an audience, their own boasting might give themselves away; peers will know, and they may not forget, even years later. Or a bully might inadvertently send an electronic message to unintended recipients, who forward them and perhaps figure out the bully’s identity.

The bully’s name might land in the newspaper if the incident happens to produce local notoriety, a lawsuit, a criminal or civil complaint or inquiry, or disputed school discipline. Newspapers land on the Internet, where anyone can quickly search the bully’s name at any time in the future. “Anyone” includes several routine searchers – colleges and universities weighing admissions applications, prospective employers, government agencies, and even friends and family members years later.

 “Kids are KILLING THEMSELVES Over Cyberbullying”

In just the last month, headlines reported two Twitter incidents that should warn about the dangers of treating technology as a toy, without respect for its unprecedented capacity to shame users. The first incident involved former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, whose 17-year-old daughter was accepted at Rhode Island’s Salve Regina University, where she will play softball. Immediately after Schilling tweeted his congratulations in late February, a few male trolls miles away tweeted vulgar sexual slurs directed at her. Some of the slurs seemed to border on, or even cross the line into, threats of sexual violence perhaps cognizable by criminal or civil authorities.

Schilling did not take the matter lightly. “Kids are KILLING THEMSELVES over cyber bullying,” he correctly responded on his blog. “If you hate me because of my political stance that’s ok. If you hate me because you love the Yanks, that’s cool. Those differences are the very fabric of this country. We are ALLOWED to be, think, and act different. Men and women have died for over 239 years so you and I could debate and argue politics, religion, evolution, baseball, sports, whatever, without death as a potential argument finisher.”

After Schilling determined the identities of his daughter’s trolls, his blog named the men, who paid the consequences. At least one lost his job, and others — collegiate student-athletes — face discipline from their schools, including dismissal from their teams.

 “Why Not Give Him a Second Chance?”

 The second recent Twitter incident targeted Mo’ne Davis, who won national attention last summer as the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. When the Disney Channel announced that it would do a film of her achievements, a Bloomsburg (Pa.) University first baseman sent this tweet: “Disney is making a movie about Mo’Ne Davis? WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada.”

Publicly calling a 13-year-old girl a “slut” is serious business.  The University has dismissed the first baseman from the team, but Davis sent the University an email asking for his reinstatement because “everyone makes mistakes” and “[w]hy not give him a second chance?”

The Changed Dynamic

What lessons do the Schilling and Davis episodes hold for parents, coaches, and youth league and high schools players?  The trolls happened to be older than youth league age, but the lessons do not depend on age.

On “The Sports Edge,” Rick Wolff has long urged parents and coaches to teach players about cyber self-discipline in the Internet age. In his most recent Sunday morning show and blog posting, he correctly reiterates that parents need to talk with their players at home, and that coaches need to talk with players and parents at preseason meetings, with follow-up throughout the season as pressures mount.

Times have changed. Outbreaks of spoken vulgarity have marked sports for decades, and local youth sports rivalries have never been immune from the verbal give-and-take. In the old days, emotions might simmer for a while, but memories and bad feelings usually faded because the words left no permanent written evidence and listeners numbered only a few. By creating a potentially permanent forum for distant communication that can reach an unlimited audience of hundreds or thousands, social media has changed the dynamic.

On Sunday morning’s show, Rick plausibly suggested that the Bloomsburg University first baseman might have thought he was simply being flip, without appreciating the slur’s potential effect on himself or his target. Parents and coaches need to emphasize, however, that speaking and writing remain distinct modes of communication, even when the two modes use the same words.

Written communication arrives without the tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and contemporaneous opportunity for explanation that can soothe face-to-face interaction. Writing appears cold on the page, and its meaning depends not   necessarily on what the writer intends or implies, but on what readers infer. No decent reader could have reacted to the first baseman’s vulgar tweet with anything but disgust.

 “Before You Do It”

Americans are learning the hard way that common decency does not restrain some social media users from wallowing in vulgarity, sexual innuendo, and other vicious cyberbullying. Nor does empathy for the physical and emotional trauma that cyberbullying can inflict on its targets.

Perhaps self-interest might do the trick. As responsible adults teach adolescents empathy, they also need to teach that when the keyboard becomes a weapon, it can injure the user as much as, or sometimes even more than, it injures the target.

Injury to users can be permanent because society does not always give miscreants second chances.  For the rest of their years, the Schilling and Davis tweeters may have a difficult time explaining to educational institutions, prospective employers, government agencies, and others why they publicly leveled indecent sexual slurs at teenage girls, including threats of sexual violence at one.

The 13-year-old Davis was actually much more perceptive than the Bloomsburg University first baseman, who is presumably an adult. In her email asking the University to forgive him, she observed that “sometimes you got to think about what you’re doing before you do it.”

Only afterwards did the Bloomsburg first baseman recognize what he had done. reported the apology he tweeted the next day. “[O]ne stupid tweet,” he wrote, “can ruin someone’s life.”





Sources: Cam Smith, Curt Schilling on Vile Tweets to Daughter: “This Wasn’t a Mistake. This Is a Crime,” USA TODAY, Mar. 15, 2015; Lucy McCalmont, Curt Schilling Outs Twitter Trolls Who Directed Horribly Vulgar Tweets at His Daughter, Gets One Fired, Huffington Post, Mar. 3, 2015; Curt Schilling, Is it Twitter’s Fault?, (Mar. 3, 2015); Cindy Boren, Offensive Tweet About Mo’ne Davis Gets College Baseball Player Kicked Off Team, Wash. Post, Mar. 23, 2015

SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERNS: Why Do Young People Have Such a Hard Time Understanding The Consequences?

One of the more stupefying trends that continues unabated in our modern, high-tech world is the uncensored use of twitter and other forms of social media by athletes in their teens.

The irony is that most young athletes – because they have grown up with this technology as part of their lives –  SHOULD be better educated and more thoughtful before they pick up their cellphone and post something that – perhaps at the moment – seems funny to them —  but if they had given it a little more thought, they might have stopped themselves.

Now, we have talked about this kind of behavior many times on my show before. I recall the football player from New Jersey who tweeted some offensive stuff and immediately lost college football scholarship offers for his stupid comments. The football player apparently didn’t realize that college coaches follow him on tweeter, and once you post something stupid, it’s impossible to pull it back.

There have been plenty more incidents about twitter that have cost athletes big time. And now we have a new one to talk about:

It was reported last week that Mo’ne Davis, the star pitcher from the LL World Series last year, was the innocent subject of a nasty tweet.  According to several media sources, Joey Casselberry, a junior first baseman from Bloomsburg University in PA, tweeted the following:

“Disney is making a movie about Mo’ne Davis? What a joke. That slut got rocked by Nevada.”

Now, that simple tweet has had the following impact:

Casselberry was dismissed by the baseball team at Bloomsburg. His case will be reviewed by the school’s disciplinary committee, which is the school’s usual practice.

To her credit, Mone wrote an email to the college saying, “Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance. I know he didn’t mean it in that type of way. I know people get tired of seeing me on TV. But sometimes you got to think about what you’re doing before you do it.

“It hurt on my part, but he hurt even more. If it was me, I would want to take that back. I know how hard he’s worked. Why not give him a second chance?

Let me repeat that one, key line from Mo’ne: But sometimes you got to think about what you’re doing before you do it.

As my colleague , law professor Doug Abrams, has pointed out many, many times, social media postings on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all the rest are routinely viewed by one’s school, coaches, professors, and even employers.

Yes, you DO have the right of freedom of speech in this country, and you can say what you want….BUT you always have to live with the impact of what you say. So the real question is:

Why in the world don’t our young people understand this?  

In this case, this is a college baseball player – a junior –  who is presumably 20 years old…what was he thinking? Or better said, why was he not thinking?

These days, pretty much every HS, travel, and college coach in the country lectures one’s players about not engaging in social media during the season. Just don’t do it. And yet, it still happens all the time.

For example, the UConn women’s basketball program, under Geno Auriemma and associate coach Chris Dailey, have instituted a season-long ban on UConn players using twitter. And the players clearly abide by that rule.

In fact, UConn players are not even allowed to use their cell phones al all during team meals or other team get-togethers. Such meetings are viewed by the coaches as an important opportunity for the players to talk and to bond with each other, and the ban on phones makes that much easier.

That’s a pretty smart policy regarding twitter and cell phones…maybe that’s one of the reasons why UConn women’s teams are so good, year after year.

In any event, I do want to salute Mo’ne for being compassionate about this baseball player’s error in judgment, but that being said, it doesn’t excuse what this baseball player did. As Mo’ne said, sometimes you’ve got to think about the consequences of your actions BEFORE you do something.

But if the athletes aren’t paying attention…or if they think their 140 characters are just too funny to cause any harm or to put themselves in an awkward spot, clearly they will have to face the consequences.

Zero tolerance, in my mind, is still a very effective way to get a youngster to think twice before they do anything stupid. Or maybe we just follow the lead of UConn women’s basketball – just ban twitter from the very practice of the season to the very last game.