One week ago, I went over to Michelle Hiebert’s house. For those of you who don’t know, Michelle and I are working on our Master’s degree and are collaborating on our class project. What initially started as a scope and sequence on technology for young learners, has evolved into a “how to guide on twitter” for early childhood educators and a book written by kids for kids on using twitter. We had a productive session last Sunday, where we got much of our writing down and Michelle tutored me in using Google docs.
The week prior to our working session, I spent a lot of time reading reports and research on social media usage by teens and by kids under the age of 13. I know that Facebook requires users to be over the age of 13, but twitter has no age restriction when signing up for an account. I learned that many children under 13 are lying about their ages to create to a Facebook page and aren’t aware of the privacy settings that are there to keep them safe. Some of these kids are creating profiles with parental knowledge, but many are not. Social Media has been in the news a lot in the past years with cyber bullying becoming a major concern for students, parents and educators. As I look around the students in my class and in my school, I often wonder how many of them are online at home without their parental units knowing.
Listening to stories in the media about online bullying and teens posting inappropriate videos and pictures has given me pause. I know that parents are not supervising kids on their devices. I know that parents themselves are learning the ins and outs of social media themselves. I know that kids love the apps on their tech, but there doesn’t seem to be that many people out there teaching kids how to use the social part of their devices. Even consoles like XBox and Playstation 3 have chats were there are no age restrictions and very little parental supervision. We, as educators, need to start teaching students and their parents how to use this social tool appropriately.
There are many people out there who think I am nuts using twitter in my classroom. I know that they do not understand why I use it. This week at school, i tweeted with students individually with pictures of their patterns. Every single one of them wanted to put their name with their photo, and every single one them wanted to say where we were. I understood that they simply wanted to share what they had done, and with each child, I discussed why we don’t post names or our location. We looked at the photo to make sure it was appropriate before hitting the tweet button. Later, we were sent photos of an apple experiment and my students response was “Ew! Gross!” We talked about how we should respond to the apple experiment class, and how we don’t say things that are hurtful or that are mean. These lessons may sound silly to some, but my hope, as we continue on this journey, is that these kids internalize the message of “Be nice. Be kind. Be safe. Be respectful. Be cooperative” as they grow up and use these platforms independently.