Many public schools block social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to protect their students. I know that this is going to sound far-fetched, but to me this is the equivalent of purchasing a gun and locking it up in cabinet so that your children can’t be harmed by it.
What happens to those children if the cabinet is left unlocked or they decide they just have to see the gun and break into the cabinet? If they have not been taught how to handle a gun, then the consequences can be dangerous.
Same situation with MySpace and other social networking sites. As educators, we are supposed to prepare children for life beyond (and just outside of) school. Many have access to the Internet at home, a friend’s house, or public library. What they post can be detrimental to their future employability, but we can’t effectively communicate this to students when it is “off limits.”
It is sad that students have to graduate from high school before they are offered classes that teach them how to safeguard themselves and their future when using social networking sites.
How to change this? First, we have to do the research needed to support our belief that teaching in the safety of the classroom is better than having students explore when unsupervised. (Hmm, this sounds familiar. Sex education classes?) Research which shows that employers often look at these sites before hiring a potential employee will help underscore the necessity of teaching students what is acceptable to post.
Then we have to familiarize educators with the social networking sites that are most frequently used by our students. We have to provide positive examples to shake the negative stereotypes commonly held by many educators. Then we must share examples of non “R” rated sites which push the limits and jeopardize the creator’s future employability.
What else do we need to do to promote responsible use of social networking sites? Your ideas would be greatly appreciated as I go to bat for my students.