Students concerned about Instagram trend

Katie Carmon from the Sequoyah Scribe at John Sevier Middle School in Kingsport, Tenn., was a winner in Headliners in Education’s February 2023 contest for Best Story of 2022


Katie Carmon / John Sevier Middle School

An invasion or privacy? Two Sequoyah Scribe models illustrate the problem with student-created Instagram accounts. Students are photographed without their permission, for example, when they are asleep, and photos are published online.

(Katie Carmon from John Sevier Middle School in Kingsport, Tenn., was a winner in Headliners in Education’s February 2023 contest for Best Story of 2022. This story appeared in the print edition of the Sequoyah Scribe)

Social media has taken over Sevier Middle. Several students have created accounts to post pictures of other students fighting, eating lunch and even sleeping during class.

Many students and teachers at Sevier are concerned about this trend.

“We have to get permission at Sevier to post pictures,” science teacher David Koth said. “There are too many stalkers in the world. We need to be careful.”

Some students find the accounts humorous.

“I think the ‘sevier_slumps’ account is hilarious,” Anna Patel, a seventh grade student, said. “It’s just funny seeing your friends posted on there.”

In addition to privacy concerns, using cell phones to take pictures of other students at school is a violation of the school’s phone policy.

“Phones should be turned off and left in first period all day,” Koth said.

Some students think it’s completely okay to be on their phones during class to take pictures of students and teachers without them knowing.

“Everybody is on their phones,” Bryton Scott, a seventh grade student, said. “I never find a problem with anybody on their phones. It never disturbs me.”

Teachers at Sevier are, of course, worried that pictures of them may be posted to these accounts without their permission.

“Obviously, these accounts sometimes make people feel unwelcome or targetted, so administrators and teachers need to be involved in that,” science teacher Daniel Way said.

Many, such as eighth grade student Makenna Debord, want these photos deleted for privacy reasons.

“It made me feel disrespected that they didn’t ask me first,they invaded my privacy,” she said.

Debord was not happy when a picture of her sleeping was posted without her knowledge.

“If you don’t have permission, don’t post it,” she said. “There will be less drama.”

According to Way, Sevier students involved with these accounts will regret it in the long run.

“It’s the sort of thing you’ll look back on and cringe about doing,” he said.

Some of these accounts, however, are trying to make a positive change at Sevier. The ‘sevierdresscode’ page is trying to get the school to change the dress code to be more fair.

Others, like the ‘sevier_compliments’ page were created so that students can compliment each other.

“I thought it would give people a chance to be nice and even say something positive and stay anonymous if they wanted,” Erica Smith, the creator of the account, said. Smith’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.

Although she created the account with a positive message, Smith has decided to stop creating school-related social media accounts.

“Right now I don’t have any more Sevier accounts, and I don’t think I’m going to make any more in the future,” she said.

Most of the time, the creators of these accounts, like Smith, don’t like to reveal their identities.

“A lot of these accounts are anonymous and that is pretty cowardly,” Way said. “I do think that people should own and control their likeness by default and that’s especially true for children.”

Debord agreed.

“When they figure out who created the accounts, they should take the phone and make them delete the accounts,” she said.

School administrators, according to Way, have a responsibility to keep students safe and support teachers in keeping students safe.

“When that requires them to look into something, they should look into it,” he said. “Administrators aren’t and shouldn’t just generally browse student accounts for fun, but we have to be able to make you feel safe and welcome at school.”

Many other schools, such as Dobyns-Bennett and Robinson Middle, have similar accounts to those that have impacted Sevier.

“I made the slumps account because I thought it would be cool if Sevier had a slumps account since I’ve seen the DB account and the RNR slumps account numerous times,” Smith said.

Slump pages are social media accounts that have been trending on Tik-Tok. These accounts are known for taking photos of students sleeping during class and posting them for other students to see.

These accounts may get taken down or may continue to post about other students without consent. Even some of the account creators are not completely okay with that.

“If you’re not asking someone for consent to post something, you have no right to do it at all,” Smith said.

–Originally published in April 2022 print edition–