Each time we post on social media we're leaving a digital trail of our thoughts and experiences. Our words and photos archive our lives publicly even when we have our privacy settings turned on. This online timeline can be a blessing. We get to share our lives with friends and family in an instant, making geography seem irrelevant. And since my own mom passed away last year, my family and I have found so much comfort from reading through her emails, texts, and scrolling her Facebook account.
But, we all know there's also a darker side to social media. Unlike Snapchat, most social sites don't inform you when someone has taken a screenshot of your post and what was shared amongst ‘friends' has been shared further afield. The fear of this can be enough to make you want to shut down your social accounts and limit communication to only your immediate family.
Yet if we adults are afraid, then who will show our children how to use social media with thoughtfulness and a mind to our future selves?
Let me get it right out in the open. As an educator and a mom, I believe that children should be taught how to use social media from a young age as much as I believe they need plenty of time to move and play.
Young children use apps, play online games, and watch videos online. My 7-year old has learned about places he wants to visit, things he wants to build, and recently has developed an interest in baking and crafting because his favourite YouTubers are sharing their recipes. When out shopping for ‘slime ingredients' this past weekend, we couldn't remember an ingredient so he went onto my phone and used voice text to find the instructional video. It won't be long until he reads and spells well enough to see comments left online and participate in them himself. What will he see? How will it affect him? Who will he discuss this with? And will he conduct himself with kindness? I can place all the security features I want online but he still needs to know that what he is doing affects others and himself.
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After parents, teachers are role models for behaviour in children's lives, even outside of the classroom. In our position, we share the responsibility to show them how to create a digital footprint that they will feel comfortable following them.
Teaching has changed so much in the course of my decade-plus of classroom experience but the tenets of teaching remain the same; to teach our students how to communicate thoughtfully and with kindness, how to ask questions and participate in discussions, and to sort through information to hone in on the right material. Technology has changed how we get to this information and the way we interact with our students and their families. We can communicate using apps that send updates of the school day or assignment reminders, through blogs and classroom websites, or through Twitter and Instagram. We can show students how to follow along with current events using a hashtag and even have them reach out to ask an author or another professional a question.
The online landscape is a lot to navigate but there is an advisory document in place from the Ontario College of Teachers that helps teachers navigate the appropriate use of social media personally and professionally.
Some of these guidelines include:
- model the online behaviour you wish to see from students
- regularly monitor personal privacy settings and digital properties to ensure content is appropriate
- demonstrate to children appropriate online behaviour including comments and use of images
- set up safe-search filters for social media sites that are being used with students
- let parents know which social media sites you will be using with students and consider giving them access
While the guidelines serve as a reminder to take care using social media they also provide suggestions about how to use it safely, both professionally and personally. The College helps set high standards for education in Ontario, learn more by signing up for their free newsletter available in English or French editions and visiting their site.
What are some of the ways your child has been using social media to learn? Do you follow any personal rules when using social media?
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Ontario College of Teachers. The opinions and experiences are as always, my own.