“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” —Bill Gates

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Social Networks and Kids

Hi everyone! 

It's been a while since I last updated my blog. I've been very busy at school with the start of this school year, which is still not over. However, a recent news article I read made me feel upset and got me thinking. I didn't want to miss this opportunity to write about this important topic.

You might have heard about the sad story of a 12 year old girl that committed suicide after experiencing cyberbullying. If not, you can read about it here. Coincidentally, I came across a related and thought provoking article that questions the use of social networks and devices. I have to say that I share many of her thoughts.

As I was reading this, I remembered something that happened to me in school, just a few weeks ago. I was visiting a third grade classroom to help the teacher and kids solve some tech issues. I was about to leave, the teacher and I were talking about some digital citizenship topics, and casually, the homeroom teacher turns to the students and asks them to raise their hand if they had a Facebook account.

We all know that Facebook is not for children under 13 years of age, however a large number of them still manage to create an account. So I was expecting to see many hands go up. We had asked that question a number of times before in previous years, always to have the same answer.

To my surprise no hands were up. Not one single child in that group had a Facebook account! Wow! I thought to myself, "all those lessons on digital citizenship finally paid off!" I was feeling proud of myself and my school, but not for long, when suddenly one student interjects, "Miss, I don't have Facebook, but I have an Instagram account." What? Afraid to ask, I say, "Ok, so how many of you have Instagram accounts?" Eighteen out of twenty kids had an account! Unbelievable. I left shocked. Times are changing too fast. I had just confirmed that what they say is true, young teens are moving away from Facebook, because too many parents are part of the community now. It's not cool anymore!

Now they are turning to other social network options, such as Instagram, Pinterest, Ask.fm, Vine, Twitter, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not promoting any of these options, in fact, I'm totally against kids under 13 joining social networks that were not intended for them in the first place. I am against children creating false identities in order to create an account. However, I am in favor of offering children the opportunity to become a part of a social network and learn important communication and collaboration skills. For this reason, I recommend using kid-friendly sites, such as Edmodo, in schools to provide young students with a secure, friendly social networking environment that was created for educational purposes only.

My intention today is to raise awareness amongst teachers (and parents) to the fact that children lead a busy digital life nowadays. It is our duty as adults to be informed and vigilant and hopefully avoid unfortunate situations that involve our children's online life. If you want to learn more, a great web site I recommend is Common Sense Media. It offers a vast amount of resources for teachers and parents to stay informed, updated, and help children lead a healthy digital life.


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