Children of the Social Media Age

Real-world-digital-world

Arriving home about an hour earlier than normal, I ventured out on a walk with my lovely dog. The bells must have just gone and the students dismissed from their day of school, as the pathways and sidewalks were filled with chatty children. A group of energetic girls, I’m guessing somewhere between grades 6-9, approached me asking me if they could pet my dog. I said yes, as my dog was mauled with loving hands, and we chatted a bit about their day.
One of their friends from afar shouted out, “They already started the conversation!”
“Started the conversation where?” one of the girls replied.
“On Facebook,” the boy yelled in return.

After spending a day discussing technology, and having my head “in the cloud” I decided to probe a bit more. I asked the girls if they were on Facebook, to which they all sarcastically replied yes, looking at me like I had five heads. Questioning them what other social media sites they were on gave me a list of most of them: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc… I inquired which was their favourite, and of course that was way too hard of a question for them to answer. They had different reasons for each site and used different sites for varying purposes.

The conversation was quick and although I had many more questions to ask them, they had to carry on to not miss out on their Facebook conversation. As I continued on my walk, my mind filled with many questions. I think as educators we are always thinking about the safety of kids, and I couldn’t help to do the same thing with these girls. Kids are so quick to learn new technologies and are able to master them with ease, which to adults, can be misleading. Although they know how the technology works, and can navigate through it, do they know how to use it safely? Do they know that with one click of a button their lives could be changed forever? Do they know, at such a young age, that they are responsible for creating their own digital footprint? Do they know how to create a positive one?

I believe more than ever that we need to teach children how to responsibly use these new technologies. Most likely they aren’t receiving this information from home, so they need someone to share it with them. This can be overwhelming to an educator, but I have a list of resources to help you out! In the last year, our educational technologist (@SalimaHudani), introduced us to a fantastic site called Common Sense Media. It is filled with K-12 resources organized in a cohesive way to teach digital citizenship and literacy. It’s a great starting place. As well, Media Smarts provides ample teacher resources, directly linked to Canadian provincial outcomes. Here are a few other sites for teacher resources on digital citizenship:
Digital Citizenship Resource List
Cable in the Classroom
BrainPop

The world can be a scary place, but I think it always has been, it is just a different kind of scary now. We have the chance and opportunity to keep our students safe, through knowledge and education. Will you embrace it?

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