Photo Scandal Hits Local High Schools

February 19, 2013

Local high school students are using social media to rank each other by appearances. Experts at the UVa Teen Health Center say it's a trend among teens. "Having the combination of the immediacy of technology and its use, and the lack of impulse control is kind of a perfect storm for something like this to occur," said Mary Sullivan, the adolescent advocacy and outreach program director.

According to students and administrators at The Covenant School in Charlottesville say several female students were taking pictures of themselves and sending them to a group of boys who ranked the photos based on appearances, then post those photos and their scores on social networking sites like Instagram.

Sullivan says this ranking game sends the wrong message to teens. "It encourages boys to objectify young women and it can certainly be hurtful to young women. It's a very superficial way to judge someone and it stays online because nothing ever disappears," Sullivan said. "I think it just gives young men and young women the wrong message on how to judge and value folks."

Parents and school officials caught wind of the ranking game this week and have taken action. The Covenant School's Headmaster, George Sanker, sent a letter to parents, saying in part, "While being a Christian school does not protect students from impact of social media, our community can provide guidelines for responding to the inappropriate use of that media."

Sullivan says communication is key when it comes to teens and social media and has some advice for parents.

"One thing parents need to be really careful about is coming at this topic in a negative or judgmental way," Sullivan said. "Starting a conversation rather than criticizing your child is usually the best way to go."

Administrators at The Covenant School say they met with student leaders Tuesday to discuss the issue and will continue the conversation this week. in his letter to parents, Sanker also said, "Issues like this require us to continue to partner with our parents as we both seek to cultivate good habits in the life of our students."

Students from several area high schools were involved in the online picture ranking, but those pictures have since been removed from social media sites.

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