Week 8

Week 8 — Social Media in Education

The digital citizenship chapter of Jason Ohler’s book 4 Big Ideas is a must-read for any educator or parent. The chapter inspires me to focus my teaching on the concept of digital citizenship, which is a term used to address the ethics, concerns and opportunities associated with living a digital lifestyle (Ohler 54). In other words, teaching students digital citizenship is teaching them how to be digitally mature. According to Ohler, digital citizenship needs to be taught in all grade levels — K through 12 and beyond … all the way to PhD. I couldn’t agree more. The Internet consumes so much of our lives these days that learning proper digital citizenship is the only way for humans to enjoy a peaceful, innovative and thought-provoking world.

I have seen many poor examples of digital citizenship. One that comes to mind are the comments on newspaper articles in the Anchorage Daily News. Commenters are anonymous, which can be good in some ways, but most of the time it’s an avenue for people to be racist, insensitive and disrespectful toward other human beings. I spent close to seven years working at the ADN as a sports writer. I witnessed the beginning of online comments and I have seen them try many ways to control people’s online behavior. Using Facebook seemed to be the best way to keep people in line, but the ADN has since switched to Civil Comments, a Portland-based startup that uses algorithms to monitor comments. To this day, I still think commentators should connect their profile to a credit card account and have to pay $1 for every comment they make on an article. Perhaps that would hold people accountable?

Reading the section dedicated to parents regarding social media was powerful and empowering. Thank you Jason Ohler for the seven observations. As a parent, I find myself shielding my 2-year-old boy from screen time — playing video games, watching movies, watching television and watching most videos on the Internet. The only video he watches are home videos that either I filmed or someone in the family filmed. It’s not that we don’t want him learning technology. We want him to build the basic skills: social, reading, imagination and language. Now that I’m a parent, I notice what other parents are doing to keep their child engaged. Many are using screens as babysitters. Research shows this could be detrimental to their development. Do parents know this and not seem to care? Does calming a screaming toddler with a YouTube video trump the potential long-term impacts?

I’ve written about this topic before in other UAF classes. My conclusion is that it’s never too young to teach the basics of digital citizenship. From the moment these children are born, we are teaching them habits. For example, if we are on our device while our child is asking us to play with them, should we really be annoyed when it’s their turn to be on their device and ignore our demands? In our household, we ride a fine line between using our devices and interacting with our kids. We don’t have a television front and center and we don’t watch videos for fun (except for family videos) until the kids are asleep. Digital devices are for work, not play. Most times I feel like my wife and I are in the minority when it comes to this digital behavior. But in all honesty, we don’t care because we know the dangers of too much screen time and we know that digital citizenship should be constructed slowly and carefully. Perhaps the end result will be two parents who don’t find social media all that scary.

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