Recently, during a Q & A after a presentation, I had an interesting exchange with a high school principal that went something like this:
Principal: So I just want to give you my take on this.
Principal: You bring up those examples of kids on MySpace and make the point that no one is really teaching them how to use those sites well.
Principal: Well, I’ll tell you when they learn about that stuff. When I drag them into my office and read them the riot act about what they’ve been posting to their Facebook pages and they tell me that they never thought other people would look at their pages. They seem genuinely astonished that I could find them.
Me: And whose fault is that?
Principal: Well, I’d like to blame their parents. (Laughter.)
Me: Well, I think it’s your fault. (More laughter.) I mean, maybe not you in particular. But whose job is it to educate kids to use those sites well and appropriately? I doubt that most of their parents really have enough of an understanding of what their doing to prepare them.
Principal: So how do we do that?
I get into some variation of this discussion on a pretty regular basis, but I’m always amazed at how willing school leaders are to admit this reality and how little they are doing to deal with it. There is a solution to this, one that we all know, but one that for some reason few seem willing to implement other than in the guise of a “parent awareness night” or some type of scary Internet predator presentation by a state policeman. For the life of me, I can’t understand what is so hard about opening up the first and second and third grade curriculum and find ways to integrate these skills and literacies in a systemic way. If you want kids to be educated about these tools and environments, then maybe we should, um, educate them.
If we start talking about this stuff in first grade (in age appropriate ways), AND we involved parents in the process by being transparent about our intentions and our outcomes, I’m pretty sure that we could minimize the number of kids who get pulled into the principal’s office when they behave badly on their Facebook pages.