It is important for Educators to help students build a Positive Online Presence. Especially with our younger and younger students who are becoming involved with the Internet and Social Media at growing rates.
Most students have some kind of difficulty with self-management throughout childhood. But, this is to be expected with children. They simply lack the maturity, brain development, and experience to understand how to manage themselves in every situation in real life, let alone online. In real life, students have Parents, Teachers, other Educators (we hope), who are helping to appropriately guide them throughout each day. However, online, students are generally left to their own devices to navigate a new world of Social Media, that most parents and Teachers did not grow up with.
Despite the fact that students are required to be 13 years of age or older to use many of the Social Networking applications online, it can be alarming to realize that many of our younger students are already using them. Applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and even Minecraft have taken the internet by storm. These applications are not bad at all in and of themselves, and can be used in amazing ways, especially in our schools. However, as with anything, when used inappropriately or without guidance, it can cause a lot of problems with issues such as self-esteem or bullying. Online behaviours today may also come back to haunt students in the future.
Students of younger and younger ages also now obtaining their own handheld devices such as iPods or smartphones at exponential rates. This is making it easier and easier to connect a student’s personal life immediately with social media via pictures, thoughts, and images. If you mix this factor with our young developing minds who are, by nature, still unable to self-regulate in all situations, think in abstract terms, and who simply cannot possibly fathom the long term consequences of their actions… you can imagine the realities that are students are now creating.
We as Educators are implicitly, if not yet explicitly, thus faced with the new tasks of teaching students digital citizenship, digital literacy, and the tasks of educating our students, parents, and communities about how to manage the Online Presence.
10 Things that Educators of Primary Students need to be Aware of:
- The Internet is Forever. Everything posted on the Internet will always exist somewhere.
- Security and Privacy Settings must be regularly managed. For instance, Facebook continually it seems, changes its privacy settings, that all users must keep on top of. Further, even if a student is not ‘friends’ with someone on Facebook, they can still be tagged in others photos. Students with a Social Media account, can stay safer if their privacy settings are such that no one is allowed to tag them in photos.
- ‘Friends’ have a new meaning in today’s world of Social Media. For instance, perceived popularity is often measured by how many ‘friends’ one has on Facebook, despite the fact that the students may have never even met these so called ‘friends’. A students’ perceived and real social status is often measured by how many ‘friends’ one has. This is a very important reality for Educators to understand, and embed into Character Education Initiatives.
- Students need to think Critically about what they read, and decide to share on the Internet. Different forms of Social Media are used for different purposes. Educators can strive to understand the different uses of different social media applications. For instance, Facebook is often used as a way to share pictures and information about one’s family and friends; Pinterest is a way to curate pictures of things that students may find interesting. Twitter is generally for posting quick messages in 140 characters or less, and can be valuable in getting important messages out to many people via hashtags. Many students use this to tweet about and follow celebrities. Students may not understand the difference between sharing ‘fact’ versus ‘gossip’ and possibly damaging information.
- Strive to keep our students safe while they are at school. More and more students are bringing their handheld devices to school, and are also allowed to as more and more educators are allowing such devices as part of BYOD programs, and in teaching students to use them effectively in the curriculum to document their own learning. However, we must be aware of how these devices are being used when students are out of the classroom, but still on school grounds. Are our all of our students ‘safe’ to take personal learning risks and be themselves at school without the risk of being recorded or exploited?
- Sometimes as an Educator you may find out about very negative behaviours and images of your students online. Even bullying and blackmail can be difficult situations our students can find themselves facing. Learn about who you need to contact, and how you can help students engage in positive ways online, or turn off the social media when they need to.
- Build Character Education Initiatives and create Digital Citizenship documents. It is easy for students to create false identities and false realities. It is also easy for students to not understand that what others are saying may not be true, or embellished. A lack of understanding surrounding what is real and what is not can also perpetuate an illusion of feeling ‘safe’ while online.
- Students behaviours online are being tracked by companies. Beyond the use of ‘Cookies’ in your browser, many places on the internet are following you and collecting information about your behaviours, likes and interests online. With Facebook, even advertisers and data aggregators are secretly following you to target their advertisements appropriately and make more money from you. Students information is also now being used in Facebook’s new ‘Graph’ search. It is unimaginable about what will be able to be tracked in the future.
- Obtaining new ‘Friends’ may act like a drug in the brain. Research has pointed to the act of obtaining ‘friends’ on Facebook as lighting up the same areas of the brain that sugar and other drugs target to make people feel better. If it feels good, it doesn’t mean that it is good for children. Educators can help students to be critical thinkers, make wiser decisions, and provide positive Educational avenues for using social media appropriately.
- Yes, even our youngest students will someday grow up. Even though a student may only be 7 or 8 using Social Media, it is only 10 years away when they will be looking ahead to their futures and applying for post-secondary education and or entering the job market. 10 years of unmanaged social networking will most definitely have an impact when our students enter adulthood. Educators can start integrating this into their work throughout the curriculum that helps students to think ahead to their futures and become good citizens online, and off.
Social Media and the Internet are affecting our students of younger and younger ages. We have the tasks now of not just Educating our students to have good Character at school and in our community, but also understanding the worlds they belong to in cyberspace. Schools can help our students greatly by also using Social Media to Educate the entire Community and provide safe and reliable information outside of school. After all, there are many young students who are already on their way to building their online presences that will help shape who they are, and may even last a lifetime.
© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.