I just read this excellent post by Carl Hooker, The Truth About Teens: Everything is Social Media, shared by George Couros. Hooker speaks about his experiences working with a group of students and the questions he asked them about their social media uses and habits. You really should read the full post; the activities and responses are awesome!
A couple of the questions really resonates. One was whether or not they believed a deleted photo really disappeared and the other was about which apps kids were using including ones which parents should beware of. I love the honesty of the kids.
What I found interesting:
-KiK was listed as a messaging tool in this list by the students, but not placed in the “beware” category. This app has come under scrutiny for cyberbullying (Check out this CNN article) and when I hosted a panel of adults and teens, Tinder also came up as an app to be aware of.
-YikYak was listed (as perhaps it should be), and yet, as I learned from experience, that this is complicated.
One of the main conclusions that came out was that students are using platforms that would not necessarily be considered social media and using them to communicate with one another in similar ways to how they are using social media.
Obviously there are no right or wrong answers and each school community will have different experiences from which to draw their opinions. It is however clear that there are a whole host of social media sites that can be used for nefarious reasons. It’s not about the tool, but the user of the tool. I can use YikYak (as my daughter does) to post silly puns about her day, or I can use it to demean someone annonymously. I can use Twitter to promote awareness about an organization or an important cause, or I can use it to subtext and demoralize someone. And I can use Youtube to do the same thing.
And, if indeed teens use many spaces in the same way as they use social media, then is it really effective for us to spend so much time fear-mongering in schools about how bad social media is? We arbitrarily block sites– I say arbitrarily because the list Hooker generated yielded some apps neither he nor I have heard of, so an IT Dept would not know to block it. Shouldn’t we instead, be spending more of that time teaching kids how to communicate effectively online and in some of these spaces?
This is on my mind especially because of the events of the other day. I tweeted out the link to a hashtag that kids had created for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test. #osslt2016 My daughter and I got a real kick out of the very clever posts by students who had just written the test. Even EQAO (the governing body overseeing the test) responded light-heartedly:
— EQAO (@eqao) March 31, 2016
Then a friend of mine pointed out that there was an extremely inappropriate post in the feed. When I looked, I was mortified. Instinctively, I deleted my tweet and reported the tweet as offensive. This student basically likened writing the test to wanting to be a suicide bomber and included a photo!
Then I took a closer look. This was just a grade 10 kid trying to be funny and not really understanding the impact. I looked at his Facebook page (easy enough to find) and realized from the very innocent profile and posts that he had just made a vast error in judgement.
I instinctively contacted him via Twitter. It could have gone one of two ways: he could have responded maliciously, or he could have realized his error. Here is how the exchange went:
Me: This is never ever appropriate. Nor is it funny. And this tweet can come back to haunt you when you are looking for a job.
Student: (Liked, Retweeted) Thx
Me: You are welcome. Delete it and hopefully no one will see it for now. Good luck!
Student: Kk (Deleted the tweet)
If I wasn’t in this space, I would not have been able to help this student.
This experience has reaffirmed my conviction that we need to spend more time focusing on using social media in positive ways. When we talk about social media, we can’t always use the fear narrative; but we need to be in these spaces to help students navigate the tricky waters!
Carl Hooker’s post and my own experience have me wondering:
Do we use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc…in our teaching and learning ? Or are we blocking them and having kids communicate in these spaces on their own?
Do we talk to students about apps that worry them and brainstorm ways to turn possible negative experiences into positives?
Do we explicitly teach students how to comment effectively online, in a variety of places? Give them strategies to respond (or not respond) to inappropriate comments? Give them challenges to respond positively to change the trajectory of negative posts?
Do we allow our students to comment on the Youtube videos they watch in class or do we just share the link ? Or do we block Youtube altogether?
Do we help students in school develop an online presence so that when they are “googled” they have positives that outweigh some of the gaps in judgement?
We need to focus on Digital Citizenship AND Digital Leadership in school simultaneously.