Do kids use technology inappropriately? Absolutely! Then perhaps we should just not let them use the technology, right? Some people say that technology is to blame for the lack of face to face interaction with others. Some say technology is to blame for all the antisocial and disrespectful behaviours we see in young people today. Never mind young people – take a look around and see what the adults are doing. For instance, inappropriate posts shared on Facebook and Twitter. Parents paying more attention to their phones than focusing on their kids.
The problem is not the technology itself. The issue is that they do not know how to use technology properly. How are you teaching your students and children to use technology? Do you model appropriate use yourself? Do you monitor your child’s use of social media? When parents and teachers are not familiar with the tools their children are using how are they able to teach them the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use?
Our students need guidance on how to use these tools in a proper manner. Many people see technology tools, mainly as forms of entertainment. Actually, these are tools that have the potential to do many amazing things. Yes, it seems that kids are naturally good at using these tools, but they are not born with the skills to use them responsibly. We need to demonstrate appropriate behaviour. Technology is a powerful tool that can allow us to do amazing things if they are used properly and effectively.
We need to be where our students are. If our kids are on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, then we as teachers and parents need to be there as well. Kids are using social media therefore teachers and parents need to be overseeing what they are doing in order to understand it and teach them good digital citizenship behaviours. Not monitoring them allows children to make poor decisions. We supervise our children in the hallways and at breaks, so why shouldn’t we be supervising their online activities as well?
I am so thankful that I am able to contact my family in Hong Kong and the UK with tools like Facebook and Skype. Before this technology, we were limited to expensive phone calls or snail mail to contact family overseas. Now our communication is quick and free. We have video chat capability to communicate instead of just voice communication. This would have been an amazing tool for my dad to connect with his mom if she were still alive. After leaving his country at the age of 12, he had not seen his mother for 45 years until we visited her in 1995. This made for a dramatic reunion when seeing her for the first time after all those years. Just think of how different his relationship with his family would have been if they could have talked and seen each other whenever they wanted to.
Last year I started to explore blogging, Skype, and Twitter to connect my class with others outside of our school walls. It gave me the opportunity to have ongoing discussions about digital citizenship. My class could see my personal account on Twitter making connections with other educators from around the world. We began a class Twitter account to connect with other classes. We tweeted about what we were learning and other classes reached out to us. Other classes would tweet our class questions and it was awesome to see them excited to respond. This led to Mystery Skype calls to other classes, video conferencing with experts, and blog feedback from parents and kids from classes around the country. It has been a powerful way to model positive use of technology tools.