After finishing his assigned work, Austin Shields receives a Snapchat notification from his friend Blayden Brown in order to maintain their 712 day Snapchat streak. As he accesses the app and pulls down on the screen to refresh his feed to open the Snapchat, “Could not refresh. Please try again.” appears at the top of the screen.
Returning from the Presidents’ Week break at the end of February, students began to notice that certain social media apps, like Snapchat, were not loading under all three Wi-Fi connections due to the district blocking the apps. While the block was initially put in place to eliminate a distraction from students, according to Principal Justin Cutts, the blockage also keeps students from taking and sharing inappropriate photos and/or photos taken without permission.
Many students see the Snapchat block as restraining. Frequent Snapchat user Blake Lindsay, who has a Snapchat score of 177,625, feels as if the block has caused some financial stress regarding data usage.
“I have to share 25 gigabytes with my entire family, which includes my parents and my three other siblings, and we try not to go over every month to avoid paying a fee. It’s really difficult trying to maintain my data usage considering how much I use my phone outside of school for basically everything, which is why I always connect to the Wi-Fi when I‘m at school. I check Snapchat constantly, multiple times a class period, and when the block was put in place, I noticed my data was being eaten up, and I went over my share. I have to check constantly how much data me and the rest of my family use,” Lindsay said.
Snapchat is Sydney Pefferman’s only social media platform and the block has disabled her from connecting with her peers outside of class during her free time at lunch and break.
“I understand that the school wants to remove a possible distraction for students during class; however, I don’t think that the school should have control over what we’re doing on social media outside of class time,” Pefferman said.
While the block was initially put in place to eliminate the hindrance social media has on students’ focus during class, math teacher Mrs. Navdeep Riar has not seen a difference in student’s cell phone use during instruction.
“I still see a lot of students on their phones. There are so many other social media platforms they can be on. I don’t think the block will solve the cell phone problem. Students need to focus more on their class and make better choices about how to use their time,” Riar said.
However, many students have found a way around the block using the application Norton Wifi Privacy VPN. The private Wi-Fi app turns any public hotspot into a secure WI-Fi network that keeps user information safe from hackers, which in turn masks any activity on the device. The private encryption allows students to access any apps they want, regardless of the block.
“I use the VPN app a lot so I can use Snapchat during school without taking up any data. The app also allows me to use any apps I want without admin or the district tracking my every move on my phone under their Wi-Fi,” Juren Kim Porras said.
While the district Wi-Fi blocks the app refresh of Snapchat, students are still able to access the platform using their data networks.