Thursday, April 29, 2010

Social media in schools: The Meltdown

Social media addiction. Crackdowns on abuse. Passion for progress. Differing opinions have come to a head this week between those who would retain or recover pre-information-age social qualities and those who believe online social tools are an inevitability to be harnessed and prepared for. As with most things in life, education would seem to be the solution.

First, there's clear evidence that parents are largey unaware of the activities of even middle-school students. Many deny that their children participate in social media. Many simply don't know how pervasive social media are in their childrens' lives, both at home and at school. Before progress can be made with the students themselves, parents need to understand the reality of this modern age. They need to become involved and foster responsibility and safe behavior.

Next, the schools. There's still a harsh divide between classrooms that embrace technology as a learning tool and those that consider it a nuisance. Consistency must be attained with regard to expectation and enforcement. Not every classroom should directly utilize web-enabled devices, but the policy must be in place and understood.

Finally, the students themselves need training. They know how to use the technology, at least superficially, but they often don't have the mental maturity to make the right decisions. Bullying, inappropriate language or photos, and other abuse are sustaining and can be damaging to both mental health and reputation. What's online stays online for a long, long time. Children can't usually appreciate the permanence of their actions.

How this will all play out isn't entirely clear. What is clear is that we must all educate ourselves and be aware of what the children in our care are up to. The challenge is nothing new. Only the details are.

I welcome your comments.

Update: CNN did a story on Principal Orsini. Watch the video here.


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