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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Network News: The Implications of a New Report on Teens and Social Media

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

The Pew Internet and American Life Project always provides a wealth of resources for those of us interested in how technology affects our personal and family lives and our work. Every month or so, the project releases a research report focusing on one broad topic. These are interesting and valuable reports as we continue our quest toward harnessing the true power of technology in the classroom.

The latest report, "Teens and Social Media," is one of the most informative yet. Here are a few highlights:

  • Teenagers continue to create more and more of the content on the Web. Now, 64 percent of surveyed teens create content, compared with 57 percent in 2004.
  • More than one-third of teenage girls are blogging, and about one out of four adolescent boys are.
  • The content these teens are creating and uploading is certainly not just stored online. It's put there for a reason: socializing. Nearly 90 percent of the teens that post photos online say that those images receive comments.
  • About 80 percent of students who share photos online restrict access to those photos at least some of the time.
  • Even with all the technological ways to socialize, teens still cite traditional face-to-face and phone communication as the most frequent ways for talking with friends outside school.

Questions that I wonder about and that I think need to be discussed in education circles include the following:

  • How much of that content is created in schools?
  • Are we keying into these digital minds and taking educational advantage of these young content creators?
  • What kinds of discussions, on subjects such as copyrights, safety, purpose, and so on, do teens take part in while creating and uploading content?

The report provides some outstanding discussion points for writing grants, considering policy, and informing board members and legislators about the continued need to use technology in a positive way at school. Be sure to read the full report. Do you have any thoughts on these findings?

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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Josh Allen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I hope this isn't too off topic and apologize to Chris if it is, but it's something that keeps coming up in my mind and (unfortunately) in the minds of many of us.
One of the things that I keep struggling with is, if we are asking these kids to create a Google account (for Docs or Notebook) or a Teacher or YouTube account (to post their documentary), what happens when something goes wrong? Does it or could it ever come back on the school? If you are teaching them how to upload video to YouTube (which I've done in a classroom setting), and then they post something containing violent, threatening or sexual content on their own account, does the school face some responsibility? Even if they had, previous to the assignment, used the media? What happens if a school asks students to use a Gmail account to collect and share notes with Notebook, but then the student uses the email to send threatening messages to another student. We didn't teach him how to be disrespectful to the other person, but we inadvertently supplied him with the means. I definitely feel that it is the parent's responsibility to know what their child is doing at home, but let's shoot straight: There are certain people in our society not afraid to sue anyone. Their child can do no wrong and it certainly wasn't parenting that made the child who he or she is. It must be the school's fault!
As a male elementary teacher, I kept myself from hugging students because I was afraid a parent or staff member would walk by and take it the wrong way. Everyone who knows me knew I would do absolutely nothing to harm a student in my class or school, but school districts tend to cringe when parents and lawyers walk in the door together.
As an elementary teacher and in my current position of technology integration, I use and encourage the use of web tools with classes. But as our district discusses more and more how to utilize what students are already doing at home, it's always in the back of my mind to think about what could come back to haunt us. Sadly, because of how our society has become, I have a hard time thinking of the kids first in these situations.

Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Josh -
Does your school currently have any regulations regarding the use of certain mainstreamed technologies in the classroom? I think your questions and concerns are certainly legitimate and is something that your school board should discuss as a whole. For instance, our school board has developed policies regarding student photos and postings that discuss drugs, alcohol, or threaten violence toward others, taking some of the flack off of the backs of teachers and placing more responsibility on students and their parents. If not, then I think you probably need to be quite specific in your technology based assignments as to what is considered acceptable and what is not, and make sure to discuss that with parents. Ultimately, the matter schould be discussed amongst your school board, and a uniform policy should be implemented to protect student and teacher interests.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a mother and a teacher, I to am concerned about the implications that technology is having on students. I wonder about plagerism because it is so easy to copy and paste and steal other people's work and claim it as your own.

I do also wonder about assignments at school that could lend themselves to problems down the road when a student uses what they have been taught in a destructive/violent way. The internet is a very hard area to control, and I think schools need to be careful on what they "teach" and allow students to do in in school.

Jen

Chris ONeal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jen,
Those are good points, and I guess your thoughts are what prompted me to write this post. My fear is that if schools are NOT showing students how to use these tools in a productive way, then they'll do what you describe even more. I guess I think of it almost like a "we're not going to teach driver's ed, because there's a chance students might get behind the wheel and do something inappropriate, or get in a wreck." I guess, as a parent, I'd rather them be shown how to avoid the wrecks, and have an educated person show them the ropes along the way - what to do to avoid wrecks, what to do in dangerous situations, etc. That way they're using the tools that they're going to use anyway, but with some educational context so they'll learn good decision making, etc.

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