I’ll admit that most of my conversations with others are online. I tweet. I text (a little). I email. I blog. I FaceTime. I Skype. I’m amazed that I still know how to operate a phone. 🙂 Even with my best friend who lives over an hour away, I text and email. Our schedules rarely work for phone conversations, so online ones need to do. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I love face-to-face discussions, and go out and meet people often, but the Internet is still my conversation lifeline so to speak.
And as an adult, this works for me, but I wonder about students. I love using technology in the classroom, and I feel very fortunate that so many students bring their own devices to allow for even more technology use. In the classroom, technology is used for learning. Yes, we use a lot of social media, but I create these accounts, I sign into them, and students work with me to use them. I try to model the appropriate use of these tools, and from what I’ve seen within the classroom context, this works well.
But it’s one thing to use technology for learning, and another thing to use it for personal interactions. As an adult, I’ve learned how to deal with online interactions that bother me. If I get an email that upsets me, I mark it as unread, take some time, think about my reply, write it, get a couple of other people to read it, and then send it. Time helps! I also make decisions to sometimes call people instead of writing them, and knowing when a phone call or face-to-face conversation is better than an online one, takes some time to figure out. Hey, there have even been numerous blog posts that I’ve written, edited, and chosen to leave in Draft form indefinitely … or even to delete. Sometimes just the process of writing was enough. Knowing how to reflect after going through the process, and deciding what the impact will be once you press, “Publish,” is also something that takes time (and I think gets easier with age and experience).
And it really is for all of these reasons that I’d really think twice about having students use social media (whether at home or at school) without an adult present … ALWAYS! There are reasons that Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and MSN have an age restriction of at least 13+ years. Making a mistake online can sometimes have even bigger consequences than making them on the phone or in person. There’s a record of all of these discussions, and this record can easily be captured with a photograph or a screenshot. Then it can be posted and shared in any number of places, and the implications are huge! I don’t say this to scare people, but just to make everyone aware of why it may be better to wait to get personally involved in social media.
I think that students need a safe place to make mistakes, and I don’t know that social media provides this safe place. Even now as an adult, I’m reluctant to use Facebook (and don’t even have an account) because of my fear of being tagged in something that others share. I want to be in control of my own digital footprint, and I think that we always need to be cognizant of privacy settings, and what gets shared, where, and with whom. So I don’t mind making the few humorous tweets each morning about my coffee choice or parking skills (or lack thereof) 🙂 , but this is where I want my social media private life to end.
Maybe we need more candid conversations with students about what tools they’re using, how they’re portraying themselves online, and what to do when problems occur. I know that I had many conversations and activities at the beginning of the year (with an academic focus), but what about considering the home component? How do we help students safely make mistakes and learn from them? When it comes to children, should an offline social life be the way to go (at least for anything not school-related)? What have you tried and what do you suggest? I’d love to hear your thoughts!