Study: 45% of college athletes have no social media training

March 5, 2015 / Athletic Administration
Fieldhouse Media this week released the results of its third annual social media survey, examining the use of social platforms by collegiate athletes. The information provides some insight into how student-athletes use networks like Facebook and Twitter.

SocialMediaHere are a few of the highlights with some of our thoughts on each:

45% of student-athletes have no social media training: This is surprising in today’s athletic department, especially as we become more aware of the dangers presented by social networks. Athletic programs — high school and college — should at least subject athletes to an introductory course on social networks and best practices. Consider for a moment the number of athletes that have been suspended over the last year alone for comments made on Twitter. It’s staggering to think that nearly half of all athletes have not been educated on proper use. We published this article last year that will help athletic directors and coaches get a start.

• 13% have received hateful tweets, and 22% have responded to them: In a way, this goes back to the first point about being educated. The people sending hateful messages on social media are drunk with keyboard courage, and oftentimes a response is exactly what they’re looking for. They want to ignite a war of words, so student-athletes should not engage. Not ever. It’ll only encourage other “trolls” to jump on board with the attack.

Instagram is the most popular network (33%) followed by Facebook (29%), Snapchat (21%) and Twitter (13%): The same survey found that nearly two-thirds of student-athletes use Facebook less than they did a year ago, supporting the idea that Facebook is losing its thunder. Athletic administrators and coaches should be familiar with the networks used by their athletes, so this is important information. Instagram, unlike Facebook and Twitter, is driven entirely by photos and other images. We spend a lot of time telling athletes to be careful with their words, so make sure you’re not neglecting their use of a camera.

8% have witnessed a teammate being cyberbullied: This is likely against the rules of your program, but it’s also indicative of a toxic culture. If nearly one in 10 athletes have witnessed this, it’s not farfetched to believe this is happening in your program. Let athletes know it won’t be tolerated.

20% have tweeted something inappropriate (profanity, racial, sexual, drugs, alcohol, violence): This is not only troubling as it relates to your program, but also the future of these athletes. It’s almost common practice these days for employers to check social media to learn about prospective employees, and this could cost them a job.

There’s a theme here, and that theme is we’re not doing enough to educate student-athletes. If your program is among those not talking to student-athletes about their social media use, that needs to change.

This is a quality survey full of useful information, so I encourage you to review all the results. I would like to see the survey probe further into the minds of student-athletes, but it gives you an idea of how they interact with those outside the program.

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