Issues of student safety are not new, but they are changing as available technologies change. When I was in middle school, mean girls did their damage using notes and phone calls. Now, bullying happens through texting and social networking sites. The more kids disconnect from face to face interactions, the easier it seems to be to write or message more and more hurtful attacks. I appreciated the article, When Dad Banned Text Messaging, because it brought up a lot of the issues that come with texting in particular. Yes, texts are an easy way to stay connected, and I personally wouldn’t want to live without them, but what do we lose when we text? It seems like a time saver to send a quick text, but I can think of many examples when multiple texts were needed to clarify my point. A phone call is often easier, quicker, and more effective. A major problem I have with electronic communication is the inability to convey tone, feelings, or sarcasm. There is a lot more room for interpretation of intention and miscommunication.
Who’s job is it to teach kids to be safe online?
I think it is both the school and the parents responsibility to teach kids about online safety. We need to teach kids about technology and repercussions of use, but first and foremost, we need to help kids become good citizens. Being a good “digital citizen” relies on being a good citizen. If we teach our students to think critically, understand consequences of choices, consider how they treat others and how they want to be treated, and problem solve and resolve conflicts, then these skills should translate to the internet. There are additional lessons to be learned about our digital footprint, the longevity of information provided on the internet, and e-security, but we have to start with developing the skills that will help our students find success on and offline.
In schools, when and where should we be having these conversations with students?
In school, we need to start these conversations early. Conversations about citizenship start as soon as students start school. We need to start discussions specific to technology as soon as students are using technology. I think one of the great challenges is how to have these conversations in early elementary school. Our students are certainly using technology, but how do we scaffold understanding around some of these big ideas of safety so young students are protected? Mary and I will be working on a scope and sequence for responsible use lessons for our final project, so hopefully this will be a starting point for this discussion in our elementary school.
It is very important that parents take on a responsibility for educating their children about online safety. In school, we have very specific assignments and resources and students are monitored when working online. We talk about safety in reference to the projects we are working on, but often students have a broader access at home. It’s important that parents and students have an open dialogue about safety at home.