Social Media: Not a clear and present danger

Sep 25, 2017

Andrew Chen, Pepperdine student

In today's society, the adoption and daily integration of social media has increased dramatically. According to Pew Research Center, 69% of all Americans used some form of social media in 2016. However even in this digital age, the need for social media in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders has no basis.

The Oxford Dictionary defines rehabilitation as '"the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness." By this definition, the goal of criminal rehabilitation is to aid offenders to stray from their addictive or harmful tendencies and successfully reintegrate into society by providing them with the necessary tools. Some of the necessary tools for the rehabilitation process may include, community-based programs, appropriate educational programs, parole, and employment aid. How does social media play a key role throughout this process? It doesn't.

One does not essentially need social media as a means to drive, find employment, or secure housing. Social media is a means to inform, entertain, and connect with others.

One could say social media has become a crucial channel in our everyday lives. Yet, one could also find it hard to believe that offenders need social media in order to undergo rehabilitation. In fact, time away from social media might improve the rehabilitation process.

There is no point in restricting social media access to offenders throughout their reintegration into society. Offenders may use social media as a complementary tool to remain informed, entertained, or connected with their peers. However, the same goal can be achieved through the use of other mediums, such as texting, phone calls, in-person meetings, or reading the newspaper. If offenders are prohibited the use of social media, one is only limiting them from establishing a connection with a people they wish to relate to. From another perspective, law enforcement also could use social media as a way to monitor offenders in the event of a recurring crime.

A criminal rehabilitation may be considered successful if the offender is able to coexist in their community without reverting to their violent tendencies, all while living a full life. However, until social media access to offenders renders a clear and present danger to society, it should not be restricted to them.


Andrew Chen, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the prompt:In Packingham v. North Carolina, the SC ruled that even sex offenders have a 1st amendment right to social media. Where they correct? Has social media become so integral in today's society that restricting access would be the same as restricting access to necessary tools for rehabilitation (means to drive, means to find a job, means to keep a job, means to secure housing, etc.)?

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