There are many good teachers and parents that understand the need to teach social/citizenship skills to children and teens. Contrary to the fear-mongers this is not a restriction on freedom of speech. It is a neutral education that teaches young people how to interact with others within the society in which we currently live. Teaching Kids to be Digital Citizens accurately describes some of the issues that frustrate myself as a teacher and member of the world community both online and off.
Unfortunately there are educators and parents that hide their head in the sand and cry about the good old days when bullying wasn’t so prevalent or young people talk politely to each other. I’m not sure if it’s just the fog of old age or selective memory, but the good old days were never that peaceful and accepting. If young people don’t learn how to be civil to each other despite their differences, online or in person, then why are we surprised when their behavior is less that respectful?
I am continually shocked by the ignorance of statements where people are shocked by teenage rebellion. They are always so moody, they are pushing me (parent) away, or they are always trying to get away with murder. Seriously?! If you are a MS teacher find another profession. If you are parent wise up. The entire nature of teens is to push the boundaries. It is the responsibility of the adults in a society to provide those reasonable boundaries.
But there are parents who ban the use of technology like texting without considering how it isolates their children for their peers. Sexting while alarming in it’s potential to harm, is not the prevalent monstor the media makes it out to be. Is it acceptable? Not by societies standards. But there are deeper issues with a teen that is sexting than having a cell phone available to them. Perhaps looking at the underlying reason they decided it was a good idea would be a better teaching point. There are administrators that ban the use of social networks in schools, seeing them only as a distraction at best and a source of bullying (and extra work) at worst.
Thankfully there are a growing number of parents and teachers that are tired of the complacency in their community and schools. Issues that arise are teaching opportunities that need to be taken advantage of. Lessons on how freedom of speech is a powerful tool when used wisely is a better lesson to be taught than totalitarian punishment of words posted in anger.
Teaching young people citizenship skills takes time and coordination. Many parent’s don’t have the time or interest to team up with educators and continue learning about the tech their children are using. Administrators that encourage their teachers to get online and model acceptable interaction with students are blazing the way in communities. Sites like Commonsense Media are providing parents and educators a meeting place online. Here they can find lessons and activities to give students the skills to recognize and deal with bullying & online safety. Problems arise when parents won’t take the time to place acceptable boundaries on the teens behavior and the school’s influence ends when student’s leave the campus. Although the adult role models in our communities will never fully monitor the movement and activities of their children (nor should we want to) progress will only be made through a team effort.
Bullying isn’t a new phenomenon. It has never gone away. Many studies have shown that the bullied often continue that pattern and bully others. that bullies perform for an audience in order to feel strong and better about themselves. If you remove the audience you take away a lot of a bully’s power. The only way the bystanders of bullying will interviene is if the recognize when it takes place. The only way to stop it from happening is to educate all the stakeholders involved.
While technology has made bullying harder to monitor, it also provides some original opportunities. If students are given an anonymous opportunity to report bullying, they will now have concrete evidence to show an adult. The monitoring of social networks becomes self regulated by the students themselves. While this may sound utopian in a chronic bullying situation today, it could be a realistic future where students are educated to respect themselves and others and understand the advantages of standing up to bullying.