The social media conundrum

This blog is seeking a bit of help and advice.

Our school has recently had its first incident on Facebook where a pupil had been caught out being rather derogatory about some of his classmates. Further investigation found many of our children also on Twitter, using unlocked accounts and posting photographs freely. This brought about staffroom conversation about the rights of children, the decision making of parents and the roles of teachers.

My personal point of view is that we should be teaching children about social networking. All of the children are aware of such websites from as young as year 2, perhaps younger if they have older siblings. They know what they are for, they know how they work. I asked my own class (year 4) whether they were signed up to Facebook and/or Twitter; about 25% were. As teachers, this is something we need to address. We should be discussing the potential dangers of Facebook, modelling how to use Twitter safely and going further than just the same old messages of ‘this website is not for you’.

Once staff were made aware of the boy’s actions on Facebook, the children were spoken to, local police have been invited in to discuss issues with (only) the year 6 children, and discussions were held about what to do next.

Legally, any child under 13 on Facebook can be reported and have their account deleted (Twitter is a little more vague with its policies). Is this something teachers should have the power to do? Or would that incur the wrath of parents? Should we hold meetings with parents? Maybe, if only to explain to them what we will be teaching about with regards to social media, and/or to discuss any new home-school policies or agreements. But whatever the outcome, at the core is the fact that we should be teaching about it.

This is the polar opposite of what our local authority, and by proxy some staff, think we should be doing. Facebook and Twitter, and, for that matter, many blogging sites, are blocked in school. I have asked people in higher positions than myself to have them unblocked, but I’ve been told no. When asked why, the answers are vague. Maybe it is just a lack of knowledge about certain sites, and how they work. Perhaps it is a fear of the new and unknown. It may be because they are influenced by media hype about social media, some of which is rightly reported but often exaggerated.

As the the Eddie Izzard sketch goes, we can be divided into two groups – techno-fear, and techno-joy. Regardless of teacher’s own personal opinions on social media, our own fears should be put on hold. Our children will use social media, whether we tell them to or not. Surely then, it is only right we show them how  to do it safely?

Any advice from people who have helped introduce teaching about social media in schools would be greatly received, especially if you had to persuade the cynics!

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2 thoughts on “The social media conundrum

  1. Dughall McCormick July 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm Reply

    Social media is literacy in my opinion and to deny children this essential learning, leaves them at best poorly prepared for the world and at worst, in danger of damaging their reputation, or subject to criminal proceedings. See a recent presentation of mine here: http://dughall.com/?p=252

  2. inthetwelve July 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm Reply

    I may well borrow your presentation to back up my argument if that’s ok? I am supposed to be meeting my head to outline the way forward in ICT for our school; not feeling too positive but hopefully resources such as yours will help. Thank you.

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