Adelaide's only daily newspaper, the Advertiser, has run a number of articles this week with an emphasis on the negative impact of social networking sites.
Dec. 4 - Kids keep online threats secret from parents
plus the Editorial.
Dec. 5 - Parents warned against child Net risks
What seemed to feature prominently was the apparent powerlessness of parents in being able to track their child's online activities. I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of teachers and politicians feeling pretty much the same way.
Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith, in an emailed statement to The Advertiser, said an anti-bullying coalition, formed in July last year between government, Catholic and independent schools, would meet in January to discuss a state campaign to alert parents about cyber bullying.
She said the Government released an information package on cyber bullying to schools in July, 2004.
Wow, that's really dealing with the here and now. The thing that probably amazed me the most was that cyber-bullying, vilification of teenagers and other technology enabled issues is only just getting some column space and mainstream media attention now. Sure the technology makes this sort of behaviour easier and more viral in nature but it worries me that blogs, social networking sites, SMS, video sharing sites and so on are being identified as the problem. It seems to infer the incredulous assumption that if you got rid of or clamped down on these web-based or mobile phone-based technologies, then all of the bullying, the anti-social behaviour, the risk-taking and the low self esteem will fade into irrelevance.
As my retiring deputy said to me, "I don't live in the same world as my students anymore. It's moving too fast for me to keep up. I can't relate to their experiences."
I would say that the majority of teachers fall into that category. Unless, they willingly go online and explore the web and become familiar with the students' tools of choice (as many edubloggers do) then how are they to teach strategies and offer advice to their students? If their online experience is restricted to the Allowed Categories of the filter, then how could they be familiar with Social Networking and all it can entail. Yet that's who parents turn to for solutions and who politicians saddle with the responsibility. Education, a slow moving conservative institution, is charged with keeping pace with the exponential changes and offer methods and strategies to help our students avoid the pitfalls and to deal with the consequences of online life.
While on the subject of online fear, the website RateMyTeachers.com (I won't dignify it with a link) got a run in the local rag as well. I had to shake my head whilst in conversation with some other local school educators who basically said that they don't discuss anything like this in their classroom because they feared making the kids aware of a site like this would attract them to it. I think they are missing the point - the teachers will be the last to know, not the students! I actually wish that people wouldn't get so hot and bothered over sites like this that are nothing more an advertising fueled site that thrives on its own notoriety. I would hope that my next position in education isn't go to depend on a review from RateMyTeachers.com.
Lastly, on the topic of local papers and very closely related to the topic at hand, my photo and thoughts featured in an article in the Independent Weekly out today titled "Web technology leaves SA schools behind". There's no link yet to the article but the reporter, David Sly, interviewed me by phone on where I think education is relation to Web 2.0 in this state. Mike Seyfang is also featured in the article and was responsible for pushing David my way for my views. Funny how there is still a buzz in seeing my own words and photo in a very old medium, the newspaper.