Rob's post on the use of Facebook and the web in schools caught my eye. Where I live, there has been an increased level of discussion and concern regarding the use of social media by teens and young adults due to a horrific gang rape that recently occurred to a 16 year old girl. As if this alone was not bad enough, the crime was further compounded when photos of the rape began to surface on Facebook and various other social media sites. This was also considered to be a crime.
Like many in my community (and around the world), I think my initial reaction was one of shock and dismay. My immediate thoughts were of the victim , her family and of how something like this could even happen. I wondered so many things that there seemed to be so few answers for. I then began to think of my own children and my parental instinct kicked in. Were my children safe from something as awful as this? Should I develop more rules around the use of Facebook and the Internet for my kids? How do I equip my children to know where the real dangers are in life?
It is natural to want to shelter our children from all of the "bad" that exists in the world. We do it right from the start, as we try to keep them out of harm's way – both physically and emotionally. All parents want to keep their children safe, it is simply natural. As they grow and want to gain their own independence this can be a harder thing to do. The process of children gaining independence starts from the moment they are born and never really stops – eating, crawling, first steps, running etc. As a parent, there is nothing more rewarding or harder than allowing your child to continuously work toward becoming their own strong, capable and independent person.
In the face of a situation such as what has occurred in my community, I can see how it would be easy for many parents and schools to want to limit the use of Facebook and other social media tools even more. The things that are the most brilliant about social media (ability to share info, network, plan etc) are the very same things that can present our children with access to dangerous opportunities and information. These things are enough to make any parent shudder. That said, banning these tools in schools would be wrong. I fully agree with what Rob said in his post
"I would like to add that we don't ban kids from the world – the web is
now part of this world too. We have to learn how to live in all parts of
the world – real and virtual."
This is so true. One of the most important things we can do as parents and as educators is to equip our children with the necessary knowledge and information to know how to handle the situations they will encounter in life. Children need to learn how to properly use social media tools. This is something that Vancouver School Trustee Mike Lombardi agrees with.
"We need to talk about inappropriate use and deal with these issues," he told the Vancouver Sun over the weekend.
His district is developing an "acceptable use" policy that's to be
considered at a board of education meeting later this month and is
expected to lead to the development of a digital literacy curriculum.
"One of the initial reactions of the educational community was to pretend social media doesn't exist and ignore it," Lombardi said. "Schools can't do that any more."
Information and education is not enough. Children must also be grounded with strong moral values – so that they will know how and why it is important to make the right decisions when faced with challenging, difficult or peer pressure oriented situations.
Of course none of this is easy; but it is critical. We must teach our children how to use social media properly and we must also be very clear about what is acceptable in life – which is exactly what social media is part of. At the end of the day, the gift of knowledge and values are the greatest things we can offer our children when it comes to keeping them safe and preparing them for all aspects of the world we live in.