Social Media has quickly become a huge part of mainstream culture. Everywhere you look you can see a twitter symbol or a hashtag, from commercials to news outlets. So it is no surprise that the generation that was born at the brink of this social media explosion uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on an hourly basis. Every student with a smart phone, which includes students as young as early elementary, has 24/7 access to their social media outlets. With so much access, schools have now started to question their evolvement and responsibility of the social media actions of their students. Chief information officer at Prebuef Jesuit Prep School in Indianapolis, Indiana, J.D. Ferries-Rowe believes that “the adult members of the school community have a responsibility to model appropriate behavior to our students, guide them when their behavior strays from acceptable norms, and provide them with a safe space for experimentation and boundary testing as well as a recourse from irreversible consequences when things go really bad” (Ferries-Rowe, February 2012, p.6). According to Ferries-Rowe, teacher should interact with their students on social media sites like Facebook, call them out for inappropriate comments or pictures, and redirect them if necessary. However many students believe that their social media activities are separate from the educational life and that they have the right to freedom of speech and privacy. So how do we as teachers and school staff help our students to maintain proper digital citizenship while still allowing them the freedom of unsupervised interaction that they desire?
Anne Pasco, chair of the Blended Learning Department at Huntley High School in Huntley, Illinois says that “This [social media] may seem like a new development, but students who use social media are merely participating in the same types of social activities that teens in every generation have participated in” (Pasco, February 2014, p. 6). Before the apps that allow constant access were available in the palms’ of our student’s hands, they wrote notes, talked on the phone, and gathered at school events to socialize. This is the same type of interaction, but now the technology is different. There is one major difference that teens may not realize: things that are posted online are permanent and are available for the world to see. Before online social media, comments, pictures, and actions were somewhat private. But now, as noted by Pasco, “when students make social mistakes and get involved in conflicts, it’s often open for the world to see” (Pasco, February 2014, p. 6). Because of this the education of digital citizenship has become a subject of the upmost importance in schools. Both Ferries-Rowe and Pasco agree that the education of social respect and responsibility will help guide our students in the right direction when it comes to their online actions. If we, as teachers, explain the permanence on consequences of the posts, then we will be able to install a sense of liability in them. Alecia Berman- Dry, directory of academic technology at St. John’s Episcopal School in Olney, Maryland says that “incidents on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter occurring outside of school hours indicates that our students were not learning to be good digital citizens” (Berman-Dry, August 2013, p. 24).
The NETS standard for Digital Citizenship requires that students know, understand, and demonstrate that safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology and that they exhibit leadership in digital citizenship. As teachers, we must teach this NETS, but Berman-Dry also believes that we must make sure our students fully understand the point of our lesson. In the school that Berman-Dry works in, they have implemented a trimester long course that teaches student in depth social citizenship and allows them to develop a personal relationship with digital actions that are social acceptable. I personally believe that all schools should implement some type of digital citizenship course. I think that learning about cyber bullying, sexting, and other digital mistakes from an early age will install a moral righteousness and a sense of appropriate digital behavior that we want from our students. Even a semester class on the right actions, possible consequences, and basic knowledge about social media will help educate our students and hopefully encourage them to act responsibly online. I also think that each school should have their own social media sites to keep their students, faculty, and parents updated on information, events, and other school related things. Being involved and connected online to our students will serve as a reminder to act responsibly. Along with this I believe there should be some type of anonymous mailbox that students can submit complaints and reports about bullying and other inappropriate actions of their fellow classmates. Although no one wants to be a tattle tale, I feel like having this safe outlet will provide students will a level of comfort.
Anne Pasco says it best when she states that “social media is not the enemy, it’s an outlet we want our students to use” (Pasco, February 2014, p. 6).
Berman-Dry, Alecia. (2013) Learning and Leading with Technology: making it personal: a new approach to teaching technology. (August 2013, p. 24-26)
Ferries-Rowe, J.D. (2014) Learning and Leading with Technology: Should schools monitor student’s social media posts? (August 2013, p.6/7)
Pasco, Anne. (2013) Learning and Leading with Technology: Should schools monitor student’s social media posts? (August 2013, p.6/7)