Rumors racing across the country about another mass school shooting on Friday are keeping law enforcement and school authorities busy.
Since Friday‚Äôs shooting in Newtown, Conn., rumors have littered social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, claiming another mass shooting will happen at another school; and the rumors are not just in Utah.
Kalispell, Mont., Vancouver, Wash., and Albany, N.Y., are just a few locations dealing with rumors similar to those in Ogden, Weber and Davis school districts.
In each case, school authorities and police have investigated the rumors and found that a student read something on a social media site, claiming there would a shooting at a school. However, no one has been able to find any evidence of a real threat to any specific school.
AnDrew Tyler, instructor of digital media at Weber State University, said rumors are easy to spread on the Internet with one click, but to quash those rumors is a difficult task, at best.
‚ÄúKids read something and think, ‚ÄėThis is frightening and scary, so I better let everyone know, before they check it out.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Tyler said it would be better for people to check the source of the information before they send it out, because a rumor can go viral in minutes.
‚ÄúYou share it with 10 friends, and they share it with 10 friends and so on,‚ÄĚ he said.
Dr. Pepper Glass, a sociologist at WSU, said what is happening is ‚Äúa moral panic,‚ÄĚ similar to the Salem witch hunts in the 1690s, or the Red Scare in the 1950s, or the Satanism scares in the 1980s, or the Y2K scare 13 years ago.
‚ÄúThe rumors will balloon, and then they will disappear because there is very little evidence, or no evidence, of a problem in the beginning,‚ÄĚ Glass said.
The rumors can cause people to be anxious and worry if they don‚Äôt take the time to research where the rumors are coming from, said Shane Farver, instructor of multimedia journalism at WSU.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs important for people, when they see it on Twitter or Facebook or other social media, to step back and check the veracity of it and go to other sources to make sure it‚Äôs not just a rumor,‚ÄĚ he said.
Local school district officials are taking the rumors seriously and have stepped up security in all schools this week.