The revolution of social networking is changing society faster than possibly all other revolutions combined. As it is with any societal change, society needs to properly and promptly address the harms that flow from such change. This Article discusses the duty of colleges in light of the harms stemming from social networking—what some may consider to be today’s most influential and consuming revolution.
While courts largely expelled the in loco parentis doctrine because of its inconsistency with the needs of modern education, perhaps, in light of this next evolution in modern life and the associated threats for college students, a return to the in loco parentis doctrine may be needed to address such threats. Stretching existing concepts of liability to address the harms of social networking may not be appropriate. The presence of new and constantly evolving threats from social networking may demand the resurgence of a broad special duty between colleges and students.
Colleges need to act, and students need to be protected. The new and developing harms to college students posed by social networking expose students to dangers unknown fifty years ago when courts limited a college’s duty to its students. Modern society, which now extends to a virtual world, must decide who should and who is in the best position to provide the protection that students need and what protection should be provided.
As courts decide how the law should respond to the social networking revolution, the likely source of reform to address the threats posed by social networking may be federal and state legislators. In light of the amount of federal and state funding to colleges, such legislators could swiftly act to protect social networking college students. Until that happens, courts, colleges, parents and students alike will continue to struggle to address and to protect students from the harms of social networking.
Jamison Barr & Emmy Lugus, DIGITAL THREATS ON CAMPUS: EXAMINING THE DUTY OF COLLEGES TO PROTECT THEIR SOCIAL NETWORKING STUDENTS, 33 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 757 (2011), https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol33/iss3/3