We (still) aren’t getting it!

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I may have a bad case of the January grumpies, but frankly I’m tired of reading about these kinds of incidents. More than that I am angry that there seems to be little recourse, little discussion, and most important, little action taken. But take a look for yourself…

• Young teen girl is beaten up in her school…two onlookers film and upload video to Facebook.

•  Two high school students take their disagreement online where it inevitably escalates, disrupting a good portion of their school.

• After President Obama’s re-election last November and again after the Inauguration, a slew of racist comments appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

Not a day goes by when the Internet, TV news, and newspapers don’t feature several instances of students (ok, and adults too…and that is a big part of the problem) behaving inappropriately, sometimes badly, and occasionally illegally because of their online actions. Posting before thinking. Responding without weighing the consequences. Speaking without considering someone’s feelings.

We say our teens are tech-savvy, but what does that mean? For many teens it simply suggests they can navigate, use, and are not intimidated by their devices—laptops, tablets, smart phones, games, and of course, the Internet. Primary use of technology for many teens is still connecting with others (texting, social media) and entertainment (games, music, and more).

Far fewer teens than we would like actually take advantage of the technology at their disposal to learn, collaborate with others about bold ideas, problem solve (and particularly, problem find),  and give back to others. Let me say that again…the level of technology use for too many teens stops at texting and Facebook, unless we teach them how to be responsible (digital) citizens. And in this case, that “teaching” involves as much listening and discussing with them as it does about telling!

Here is what I suggest. Parents need to talk with their teens and teachers need to talk with their students about these issues. Our children and teens need to explicitly be taught what their responsibilities are for being good (digital) citizens, and how they can use technology responsibly, carefully, and ethically. (This is no easy task given the many examples of adults who misbehave online.)

But remember, this is not about technology. It is about common sense, using your brain, caring about others, setting good examples, not doing or saying things online that you would not do or say in face-to-face.

Take five minutes to talk to one of your classes today, and tomorrow, and the next day about a tech-related issue that has come up in your classroom, school, community, or in the news. Many of our students are desperate for guidance; they need to hear each other talk about the opportunities and challenges of being a teen in today’s society with the digital devices and tools they have access to. And of course, parents should have the same types of discussions.

Please note…this is not a rant. I’m simply asking teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to take five minutes each day to talk with a group of students about these issues as they arise. You don’t need to be a technology expert, you just need to talk about common sense behavior. Would you do or say this, or this, or this to someone face-to-face, as you have done hiding anonymously behind your computer?

There are tons of excellent resources available for kids of all ages, their teachers and parents. To get started investigate…

Common Sense Media

A Platform for Good

Digizen.org

Please let me know how this works for you and the kids for whom you are responsible!

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7 Responses to “We (still) aren’t getting it!”

  1. Jill Burch Says:

    Ed
    I seem to see This kind of abuse everyday! Thanks for some good starting points to talk to kids.

    • Ed Brazee Says:

      Thanks, Jill. I think too many parents are buffaloed by the technology and are afraid to get into a discussion they feel they know little about. Just reading a study this morning—”The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents” where they reference a number of interesting stats. For example…on average teens spend 5 hours online a day when their parents think they spend only 2; 61% of teens feel confident that they know how to hide their online behavior from their parents…and 71% of teens have actually done something to hide their online behavior from parents. Obviously a huge disconnect between between parents and teens. On the other hand, some regular talks about the issues they see everyday in the media are very effective. Not totally sufficient, but a good place to start.

  2. Barbara Greenstone Says:

    Ed, thanks for bringing these digital citizenship issues to our attention again. I think we adults must do a better job of modeling responsible behavior for our kids. We can all point to examples of adult online discourse that demonstrates an astonishing lack of civility. Adults are often as guilty as young people of saying things online that they would never say in a face-to-face situation. Often our first inclination as teachers and parents is to stop bad behavior among our students by banning online communication all together, but I think this is a mistake. I think we should actively encourage students to communicate with the world, and we adults should be involved in that communication. We must give them plenty of opportunities to learn about and practice civil discourse, and we must model that kind of discourse ourselves.

    • Ed Brazee Says:

      Barbara, thanks for such a thoughtful reply. Adult role models…YES! More civil discourse…YES! Staying in the world (and that includes technology)…YES! Our students need to participate and be part of the world and we (parents and teachers) need to help them learn how to do this. What a terrific opportunity teachers and parents have to talk with their kids about real issues that are meaningful to us all…and not insignificantly, eliminate some of the drama and disruption that always accompanies inappropriate use.

  3. Christian Elkington Says:

    Ed, you hit the nail on the head with a sledgehammer! Your points are precise and to the point and must be met head on or else we will continue to set up our kids for failure! Thanks for sharing these resources! Too many Tech-People in central administration never think about these unintended consequences, which schools need to then pik up the pieces! Tech-savvy does not have anything to do with being caring-savvy!

  4. Ed Brazee Says:

    Thanks for your response, Chris. We are at a point with technology that we shouldn’t even have to include it in a separate category…that it should be understood that it is part of curriculum and instruction in the 21st century. And that means that topics like digital citizenship must also become part of the regular curriculum.

    • Christian Elkington Says:

      It is true that technology shouldn’t be a separate category, but with all the instructional changes and expectations around PBE and Common Core along with the governor’s assault on public education finding and/or incorporating the time to make this happen may be, I am sorry to say, almost impossible!

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