Should Colleges Monitor Student Athletes’ Social Media Use?

By Jennifer Janviere

Student on a computerWith the relatively recent advent of social media, a growing trend has begun to emerge: online monitoring of user generated content. Although already implemented in many corporate workplaces, the idea is spreading to a less likely spot: college campuses. Some academic institutions have begun to adopt the practice of carefully watching what their student athletes post on Twitter and Facebook.

One prominent example is the University of Missouri, which strictly monitors their players’ social media activity. According to a recent article in the Missourian online publication, the issue became controversial after basketball player Kim English began interacting with team fans on Twitter. His frequent updates, which discussed both personal and team-related topics, caught the attention of head coach Mike Anderson. Anderson quickly brought English’s activity to a halt, and has since reportedly instructed his players to avoid Twitter during the season due to distracting from team performance and focus.

Tools such as Udiligence are used by college and universities as a way to keep a close watch on athletes’ online activity. The software, which markets itself as a first line of defense against potentially negative online publicity, is quickly gaining widespread use.

Many colleges support social media use but want to remain in control of the messages being sent online. Most understand that Facebook and Twitter are effective tools for generating public interest and building an online brand, but want to remain in control of the message and prevent potentially damaging posts. College sports are typically a highly visible part of an academic institution’s public profile, so in many ways this protective measure is understandable.

But is there anything necessarily wrong with players directly engaging fans and followers? Maybe a better policy than an outright ban would be to set guidelines for individual social media use. Establishing ground rules such as not tweeting updates during a game or badmouthing opponents provides clear expectations and can be a deterrent for negative publicity. It’s also a great conversation starter, not just with athletes, but with all students about the role that personal responsibility and good judgment play in managing one’s online reputation.

We’re interested in hearing from our readers on the issue. What are your thoughts on regulating the use of social media for student athletes?

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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