Should Netiquette be Taught in the Classroom?

Netiquette: The correct way of communicating on the internet.

This term seems simple enough. After all, our parents teach us how to behave properly and use our manners in the real world. So, should netiquette be integrated into our school’s curriculum?

This is a hot debate that has people firmly rooted on both sides.

With teachers already bogged down with too much to teach in too few days, how could they possible add more? Lunch periods are now shorter, physical education is no longer an everyday activity but cut to only a few times a week, and standardized tests seem to be the main priority for most public schools. All this, plus the fact that everything on the internet is constantly changing and so hard to keep up with, netiquette seems to be the farthest thing from some educators minds. In this article, learning social media etiquette is compared to learning to swim; every kids should learn how to swim but it’s not up to the school to teach it. Those in opposition see social media as a business, something “optional” that might not be around tomorrow.

On the flip side, some schools have already implemented netiquette into their curriculum. They argue that their job is to prepare students for the future and to be successful. They see it as essential in today’s world in order to achieve success in their personal lives and in their future careers. With technology so prevalent in today’s society, how can netiquette not be taught in our schools?

Of course, I have my own personal opinions on this matter. One wrong comment on social media can get you fired from your job or have a teen step over the edge and commit suicide. We have all seen the stories of children being bullied online and it leading to devastating consequences. Adolescents are sexting and posting inappropriate videos online constantly. Do they realize that these pictures and videos can define who they are and stick with them for the rest of their lives? To some extent, maybe.

My own daughter recently came home and told me a story about a girl in her school that was suspended for posting a picture online of her “private area”. Needless to say, we had another long conversation about the repercussions of doing something like this. Not only was this girl suspended, but now this picture can be passed around and around by everyone. It could follow her for years. She could be bullied because of it and even if she does not regret posting that picture now, she surely will in the future.

No one is ignorant to the horror stories that constantly bombard the news and internet of social media gone wrong, but I want to focus on the positive. Social media can be such a powerful tool when used properly. It can foster communication between teachers and students. Conversations about what was taught in school that day can continue on social media. More introverted children can join into this community without feeling awkward or having thirty other faces staring at them in the classroom. Parents can use these sites to see what their children are learning each day and become more involved. Parents can also check up on their child’s progress and see what homework needs to be completed. What better way to teach children how to use social media than to incorporate into their classroom setting? Edmodo, Moodle, and Teachertube are all great places to start.

More and more colleges are offering online course because of time and location constraints. Most online courses require you to collaborate online with your fellow classmates. Educating adolescents would better prepare them with the skills they need to navigate these courses.

Compounded by the fact that most companies use social media and the internet as a tool in screening potential job candidates, social media is here to stay and not everyone knows the proper way to navigate it and use it to their advantage.

There are curriculums available that can be easily implemented at any school. www.commonsensemedia.org is one of the best sites I have seen with a great curriculum for each grade level.

So, where do you stand in this debate? Is there already too much being taught in too little time? Or, is social media etiquette important enough to fit in to the curriculum in order to prepare our children for the future?

If You Can’t Beat Em, Might as Well Join Em!

We live in a world where our children will undoubtedly want to create a social media account sometime during their adolescence. Some of us, as adults, may choose to not participate in social media. We either don’t have the time, don’t know enough about it, or see it as a younger generation’s fad. I was a big fan of using the first excuse. Hey, I have four kids, one of them has special needs, AND my husband is in the military, getting ready to deploy yet again….I am one of those people who forgets to eat all day and doesn’t sit down until I get in my car to run my kids to their soccer games, band rehearsals, or doctor appointments. I did not have the time to sit in front of a computer screen and figure out some social networking site where people constantly post pictures of their food or tell everyone that their cat just threw up on their couch (btw, posts like these still drive me crazy!)……

But, I could only deny using social media for so long. I started doing a lot of volunteer work for the military and staying up to date and connected with the military families I was helping, pretty much required me to join Facebook. I was not happy about it and used it minimally out of necessity. Then, I noticed my kids knew more about social media and the internet than I did.

This video really drives home the point about our generations having a digital divide:

I know people in my own generation who are almost as computer illiterate as some of the lovely seniors in this documentary. I was pretty close a few years ago.

The truth is, 94 percent of recruiters use social media during the recruiting process, and 39 percent of businesses use social media when screening applicants. These numbers are only growing each year. Check out these other statistics.

So, our children  are actually going to NEED to learn how to use social media in order to be competitive in their career search and to be productive in their line of work eventually.

Many children have created a social media page without their parents knowing about it, post inappropriate content, and have no idea about privacy settings. I personally, would rather know my daughters are using social media rather than have them sneaking behind my back and hiding it from me.

The best way for me to learn about social media is to stop being a stubborn adult and embrace the change in our times. I WILL use social media. Not only will I use it, I will learn everything I can about it, so that I can teach my children how to be responsible and ethical digital citizens.

 http://www.ikeepsafe.org/ is one of the best sites I have found and is a great starting place for learning about online safety, citizenship and how to teach your kids. They have links for parents, educators, and even our youth. There are some great tools, videos and apps available through ikeepsafe.org that can help you along your way. One of my favorite links is the Parent’s Guide to Facebook. Here is the link to download the guide.

https://www.fosi.org/ is another great website where you can join a mailing list and receive great tips on some of the latest social media apps your children might be using.

If you are just starting out in using the social media world and learning about online safety, it can seem daunting at first. But, just like everything else, the more you do it, the better you become. Have fun with it and talk to your kids about it. You might learn something from them!

Public Humiliation as Punishment?

Many of you may have seen the recent video uploaded by a Denver mother who found out for the fifth time that her 13 year old daughter had created a Facebook page where she lied about her age, posted provocative photos, and was accepting friend requests from older men. The mother took away her phone over a year ago, took away internet access, and yet, her daughter was still able to create another page while at a friend’s house.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/21/living/feat-denver-mom-public-shaming-video/index.html

I personally am not a fan of public humiliation as a punishment for my children. Just looking in from the outside, this child seems to have a self esteem issue already if she is seeking this kind of attention from men. I would venture to say that publicly humiliating her would only make things worse. However, I have not had to deal with the extent of this issue with my own daughters and I hope it never comes to this. I applaud the mother for being vigilant enough to actually find her daughter’s Facebook page (which she was blocked from) and taking action to keep her daughter safe. She is obviously at her wits end in dealing with this issue and saw no other option.

The parenting expert in the article disagrees with public humiliation as a punishment as well but offers no alternatives other than taking away privileges and working things out with her daughter as a team.

So, if not public humiliation, then what is the proper punishment for an action like this? Are there other options? The phone and internet have been taken away. She has been grounded for the summer to only staying inside and reading books. So now what?

I agree with taking away what matters to your child. Take away the cell phone, video games, the internet, and set restrictions on when and who they are allowed to go and hang out with. All of these things are great currency for punishments. But, this is the fifth offense for the same crime…..

A positive male role model would probably be beneficial in this situation. This can help tremendously in young teenage girls seeking male attention. I can vouch for this as I was one of those teenagers who wanted male attention (thank goodness social media was not around then!). The mother and daughter live with the daughter’s uncle, so he could possibly be a good source for this.

This single mom is doing the best she can and goes to night school so I am sure it is hard for her to stay involved in her child’s daily life, but knowing the types of friends your child has is important. Teenagers are mostly influenced by their peers. I can’t speak for how their household is run, but I would encourage the mother to communicate more with her daughter on a daily basis and not only when her daughter is dong something wrong. A family counselor would be a good place to start with opening the lines of communication. If the daughter is constantly lying or hiding things, she obviously does not feel like she can come to her mother for advice.

I wish this family the best and they are not alone in this struggle with adolescent behavior and social media. I would love to hear other ideas from parents out there! If you have been in this situation or have some great advice, please share!

Big Mother is Watching YOU!

My preteen daughter, Evie, received her first cell phone last Christmas and it has turned out to be an asset on those crazy days when she is at marching band practice until the evening hours after school and I haven’t seen her all day. I remember how excited she was when she opened the tiny present under the tree and I remember telling her that I could see EVERYTHING she did on the phone just by logging in to my account online. I told her I could see all her texts, all her phone conversations and everything she looked up online. If I caught anything questionable, the phone would be taken away. I might have fibbed a little on exactly what I could see on my account but it seems to be working. I search her phone every once in a while and check the history just to make sure she is following the rules and I have yet to find anything suspicious. We also told her she was not allowed to have any boys’ phone numbers unless they were family. We are definitely not ready for that yet.

The Selfie Queen! The Selfie Queen

But recently she asked me, “Mom, can I have my own Instagram account?”

Red flags started going up in my mind immediately. Of course, we got the “all of my friends have one,” sob story from her so my husband and I had a decision to make. I’m sure many people are already shaking their head “NO!” while reading this, but we decided to go ahead and let her have one. Our ultimate decision was based on the premise that we think it is better to start early and teach her what social media is and how to properly use it, instead of having her sneak behind our backs and create her own account without us knowing about it.

These are the ground rules we set:

-no following anyone you do not personally know.

-all friends she wants to add have to be approved by us first.

-anyone posting something that we deem inappropriate will be unfollowed immediately.

-her profile must stay private to her followers only.

-I must know her password at all times.

and last but not least:

-any violation of the rules will mean the account will be terminated.

I am a big advocate of knowing what is going on in my children’s lives. I know too many parents that have no idea who their teenager’s friends are or what they do everyday after school. Then, by the time these parents realize that there is a disconnect and try to get involved, it’s too late and things are just awkward. I always try to show a genuine interest in what my children are doing or talking about. I am no expert and the teen years are just beginning for me, but my girls and I seem to have a solid foundation built where they are not scared to come to me about anything.

So, guess who’s Instagram account is on my personal cell phone? Yes, that would be my daughter’s. Is this a huge invasion of her privacy? Maybe, but she knows it is on my phone and that I have complete access. It’s social media, not her personal diary. These are the rules and if she wants the account that bad, she will follow them. I would rather know what is going on in my daughter’s life and who she is talking to than to find out one day that she didn’t come home, is missing and had been communicating with some strange guy over social media. One day, when I feel she is old enough to fully understand the dangers involved with using the internet and social media, I will loosen the apron strings. Until then, mom is big brother.

Although, I must confess, I am getting pretty tired of seeing pictures of furry kittens and puppies, and posts about everything middle school. I might die from the cuteness!