This week we completed the Hour of Code in all of our classrooms. The purpose of this activity was to give the students a “taste” of what it is like to do computer coding. This was a big deal all over the world (over 74 million people!), and we are proud to have joined the millions of others who participated. The Hour of Code was a fun activity for our students, but it is only one small piece in this new era of education. As you may know, all of our district’s students in kindergarten through eighth grade were given a device to use in school and at home. The idea of a 1:1 computing environment is one that was percolating in the district for a number of years before we were able to make it a reality. As we finish the first half of the 2014-15 school year, we have learned much about the use of computers in all of the students’ hands.
From our experiences thus far, we have learned that the majority of our students have been very responsible with their devices. Sure, we have had some Chromebooks break and we have had some issues with the iPad apps, but for the most part the 1:1 experience has been a very positive one. Most importantly, the students are respecting the power of the Internet, and they are using their devices in responsible ways. We have had very little trouble with kids acting inappropriately online, and we are very proud of the kids for this!
With that in mind, I want to take an opportunity to share some of my thoughts on social media use for elementary students. I’ll start with a personal story of when my own children (now 20 and 17 years old, respectively) were in elementary and middle school. Back when my younger daughter was 12, she begged and pleaded for her own Facebook page. However, Facebook’s policy was (and still is) that children must be 13 in order to sign up. My wife and I stuck to our guns on this, and at 12:01 am of her 13th birthday, Gillian created her Facebook page! Five years ago, when we were dealing with this “drama” I wrote a blog post about it. Here is the link in case you are interested in reading my thoughts from November, 2009. Facebook Blog Post.
I share this personal story again because the issue of young children joining social media networks has sprung up around our school district. I do think there is a distinction between educational uses of technology and social uses of technology. I am an avid fan of social media and I use it regularly to communicate about our school, for my own professional development, and personally to keep up with family and friends (@dbsherman). However, we must always be conscious of the difference in how we as adults use social media and how our children do. There is an appropriate time for students to establish social media profiles. Please note that the terms of service for sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter clearly state that users must be at least 13 years old. Reading the terms of service of these companies leads me to think that none of the students in our elementary school should have personal profiles on these sites. There are several reasons for this but the main reason is that students of this age do not have the understanding and maturity to use these sites appropriately. Unfortunately, often times students establish accounts without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.
We do not allow the use of these sites during school hours nor do we allow personal electronic devices such as cell phones to be used during the school day or on the school bus. However, students create and use social media accounts outside of school. That being said, young children are still using social media. Although their posts and tweets are made outside of school hours, the impact can carry over into the school day causing a disruption in the teaching and learning process. I believe that elementary aged children might use social media in ways that can be harmful to themselves or others, and this is something about which we adults must be cognizant. A great resource to help parents navigate these issues with their children is Dr. Devorah Heitner’s blog on her “Raising Digital Natives” website. I encourage everyone, but particularly parents of intermediate-level students, to be aware of your child’s potential social media activity.
Are others dealing with social media issues among elementary and junior high students? If so, what are you doing about it? I am curious to know what is going on, especially in schools that are now 1:1.