One of the presenters at the literacy training I attended last week was encouraging us, a group of teachers, to have kids use social media. This came fast on the heels of our burgeoning awareness of Common Core Standards which asks us to have kids get up out of their seats and talk to each other. There goes half of my management plan: Stay in your seat and be quiet. On top of this, I would add social media? I want kids texting one another? Posting on Instagram, Facebook, and sites and apps that haven't even been invented yet?
Or discovered by their antiquated teacher? Having already investigated and endured a fourth grade Instagram imbroglio that ended up in tears and confessions and calls home for its horribleness, along with at least a couple more big wide swings through the dark side of social media and kids, I wonder just how we might be able to use this new technology in a way that would be productive, and not just the twenty-first century version of writing something mean on the bathroom wall.
The bathroom wall, after all, can be washed off. Getting something off Al Gore's Internet is all but impossible. Raising a generation of super-users to show restraint and conscience as they enter a world of anonymous chat rooms and applications that require little more than the ability to lie about your age to get an account is a responsibility I feel very wary about accepting. Managing my own son's cyber-forays is a full-time job. A room full of fast-fingered ten-year-olds with smartphones seems like a recipe for disaster, at least from the outset.
The challenge isn't awareness. I've been teaching kids about cyber-safety since I started introducing them to the World Wide Web. The majority of them, starting in Kindergarten, understand that talking to strangers online or on the street is a bad idea. But there's still that group that believes, because kids do, that they are smarter and indestructible compared to their adult counterparts. We just don't understand.
They're probably right. I find myself already past the window of using Tinder or Blendr tweeting about using any of them. Do I know that these aren't the only apps out there? Yes, I do. Do I know that I could be completely successful introducing kids to Pinterest or a dozen different totally useful and educational sites that would help them explore the world around them? Yes, I do. does the idea of being responsible for such a journey feel daunting?