Some stories are so bizarre that you have to wonder if they’re true, but this one (via Ewan’s Delicious bookmarks) about a policeman in Cheyenne, Wyoming who was brought in to “teach” kids about MySpace is beyond the pale:
â€œOfficer Gay chose it as an opportunity to take Shaylahâ€™s pictures and her MySpace and use it as an example of what not to do, but then just really publicly humiliate her and mocked her,â€ said Nordic, who coaches wrestling at the high school and football and track at Windsor Middle School. â€œShe left the auditorium in tears and busted out crying. He told the student body that he took her information from MySpace and showed it to a predator in prison and asked him what he would do with it.â€
Nordic said Gay used inappropriate language when describing to the students what the predator would do to Shaylah.
It gets worse.
Anyone with any experience with social Web tools can tell you that INVITING LAW ENFORCEMENT TO AN ASSEMBLY TO SCARE THE BEJEEZUS OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL KIDS FOR POSTING STUFF TO MYSPACE IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST WAY TO “TEACH” THEM ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKS.
First of all, it’s too late by that point. Second of all, it’s LAZY. Schools do this because they don’t want to do the hard work of understanding what 75% or more of their kids are actually doing online.
Here is a suggestion: Go to your principal or superintendent right now and ask her/him this: Would you really rather have your students learn about safety online from some “authority” figure who drops in and attempts to make them fearful, or from people who they know and trust and see every day in their classrooms who over the course of time in appropriate and balanced ways can educate them instead?
Of course, this requires that the teachers in the room have the ability to educate their kids about the dangers AND the potentials of social networks. More often than not, unfortunately, that’s not the case. And I have to say that I’ve been surprised of late in my travels (4,000 miles worth just last week) at the almost palpable fear that a lot of teachers still exhibit when we start talking about putting content online or sharing documents or being transparent. In a lot of ways, it feels like we’re no closer to making social networking a K-12 curricular imperative than we were when I first started doing this four years ago.
But then again, scaring them is so, so much easier…
â€œYou could imagine her sitting there and hearing that,â€ Nordic said. â€œHe asked everybody there, â€˜Is Shaylah Nordic here?â€™ So she raised her hand and then he went on to post the pictures and talk about it. He said she was likely to be raped and murdered because how easy it was to access this stuff, and how easy it was to get information.â€
Nordic said Gay gave the example of a girl in another state who had been targeted on MySpace, and the girl was taken to an empty warehouse, was raped and shot dead.
Corrie Bergeron says
A savvy lawyer could make some goooood money off of this, methinks.
hall monitor says
This story made http://detentionslip.org! It’s the leader for crazy headlines from our schools.
Stephen Downes says
This is ridiculous. You don’t govern your life according to ‘what a predator would do’. Ask a predator if he saw you walking down the road… or on the beach in a swimsuit… or working at McDonalds…. and the answers would be equally chilling.
Clint Lalonde says
Wow. That is just…so…wrong.
Barry Dahl says
As a proud graduate of Cheyenne East High School, I just want to point out that Windsor High School is in Windsor, Colorado. The officer (hired gun) was brought in from Cheyenne, Wyoming to do his Sharing and Scaring routine, so no, that doesn’t make me feel too good about my home town.
I’m speaking to a full school district of faculty and admins on Tuesday here in Minnesota. This piece will be added to my materials and links for the day.
Two words: Pa Thetic!
Gary Stager says
I’m frankly unsurprised that the educational objective selected was to humiliate a child. We do not pay enough attention to the myriad ways in which children are made to feel bad in class on an all too regular basis.
I once served on an Internet “safety” panel for parents. I was between a guy trying to sell $300K worth of network security services to the school and a sherrif deputy on loan to the FBI child abudction and Internet crime division who showed graphic pornography during his presentation.
My focus was on the high-cost, bot educationally and in financial terms, of parents and teachers overreacting.
Most of the audience requests were for the officer to show more porn. I’m not sure if I should draw any conclusions as a presenter from that experience.
By the end of the evening, the officer told the audience that my calls for rationality and moderation were right on.
Doug Spicher says
While I agree that this is wrong, what are the consequences of not reacting at all?
Justin K. Reeve says
You know, I actually do like the approach of having a teacher, or at least someone working in the school district (not an officer, though), show students how easy it is to pull up their Myspace profiles. But this guy did it wrong.
#1. This demonstration should have been in a smaller group of students, like one class, not in front of the entire school in an auditorium.
#2. He should have gone through several students, omitting the ones with the most potentially humiliating profiles. This way not just one person would have been singled out.
#3. He should have obtained parental permission first (although for all I know, he did) and worked with them on which students to choose, if nothing else so he could pass the buck on to them if necessary. 🙂
#4. He should NOT have immediately launched into a discussion about all the kids who end up raped or murdered because of their Myspace information. This is just my opinion, but I think just having an UNFAMILIAR adult pull up the PUBLIC information the student has posted, drives the point home pretty well as it is.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment. My point is that he shouldn’t have been there at all. We should be teaching our kids about this stuff starting in kindergarten and flowing right through graduation in age appropriate ways.
Anne Mirtschin says
I agree that the teaching for social networking should be done in the classroom with teachers. We really have the power to make social networking a positive thing and by using many of the tools for education, can direct, advise and share the ‘better’ way of doing things, indicating possible and potential dangers along the way in a manner that is encouraging rather than threatening to students. Our leadership team also ran ‘scared’ of all this social networking until our principal started her own facebook page. Now the tables have turned. I consider it an honour if students wish to befriend me on facebook, as I hope that I have the power to influence them by my presence and the content of my page. However, I do not go down the track of myspace.
I think we should not only teach children about their digital footprint but model it ourselves as well, through responsible web use. Children learn by seeing adults work and learn in responsible ways. Scaremongering is damaging. Adding more fear into children’s lives can in no way be deemed to be a good thing.
Marina Quinones says
This is key:
…”Would you really rather have your students learn about safety online from some â€œauthorityâ€ figure who drops in and attempts to make them fearful, or from people who they know and trust and see every day in their classrooms who over the course of time in appropriate and balanced ways can educate them instead?
Of course, this requires that the teachers in the room have the ability to educate their kids about the dangers AND the potentials of social networks.”…
Thanks for posting this for it brings up the topic of educational frames: are educational spaces/actions for learning and educating or are they used for selling prods/scaring the Â¿$%& out of kids-control-reframe-(more calls for extra authoritative controls+more control prods=more business…etc cycles? then impacting also on society). This is not so different from what we’ve seen on most trad media since 2003 and needs to be addressed. (George Lakoff dixit, see: “Don’t think of an Elephant” even when topic is more about media/politics there, it provides excellent tips, very useful in edu frames as to action/discourse/context (and debate) which may have impacts on future gen’s perception/action/discourse/reflection possibilities…etc).
Doug Johnson says
My guess is that whoever brought this guy into speak at the school saw him or someone like him at a professional conference. How do we end this foolishness as well?
Susan Tompkins says
Wow. Some people just don’t get education. I think the idea was on track, to let students know that they are allowing more than just their friends to view their pages, but it was handled totally wrong. Thanks for the supporting statements about known, trusted people to educate them. Good commentary.
Tim Goree says
This situation reminds me a little bit of the old driver’s education classes in high school. Remember how they used to play that movie that showed all those nasty car accidents with dead people hanging out of them? I think it was called “Red Asphalt”. Anyway, while that movie didn’t single out and embarrass anyone, it did attempt to put the fear in us about driving carefully. The problem was, I don’t think it really helped make kids stop and think before they did something stupid behind the wheel. One fairly shocking moment in class usually doesn’t overcome the daily peer pressure that students put on each other. A solid curricular component from K – 12 is a much better idea, but for many administrators, that would just take too much time and effort to coordinate, wouldn’t it???
Sherry Crofut says
A couple of years ago we had an Internet Safety presentation put on by a couple of “professional” presenters for our parents. They didn’t show anything about our kids, but rather the worst of the worst and were scaring our parents half to death. Then the conversation turned to how to block sites at home for children. When I just couldn’t take it any more, I jumped up and protested. I told the parents that blocking children would not teach them how to use these sites appropriately and safely. I told them they should get their own MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc. accounts and learn themselves. They needed to be involved in their childrens’ environment because blocking would just make their kids go use a computer down the street. I should have looked before I jumped on my soapbox because the local paper was covering the event. They came to school the next day to interview me. The nice thing is that my principal loved what I had to say and now we have an night every year where the firewalls are dropped and I show parents about these sites. My principal has a Bebo account now (which is where most of our kids are) and so do I. When we see bad stuff on a kid’s site, we pull them in and discuss the image they are portraying. It isn’t a discipline conversation, just a concern and educational one. Kids are great about changing their stuff when they know you care.
Thanks for keeping this topic in the forefront and keep fighting the fight!
Julia Osteen says
I agree totally with your assessment of the situation. So I have a question for you. If you, as a member of the school’s learning community, were asked to present to let’s say all of the middle schoolers (6-8 grades) about Internet safety, what would you say & do? How would you approach it?
Will Richardson says
I wouldn’t present to middle schoolers. I’d present to middle school teachers, and elementary teachers and administrators and try to get them to use some of these tools and understand the pitfalls and potentials themselves so then they can have the ongoing conversations with the kids. I know I sound like a broken record on this, but having someone from outside of your school community come in to talk about this stuff is just lazy. That’s it. We don’t have outside folks come in and talk about sex education, do we? Scare kids about pregnancy? (Ok, maybe some do, but they are wrong to do that as well.) My point is that we have to start making this a part of our learning business, not an event when the need arises. In that way we can keep our kids safe from idiots like this while teaching them how to keep themselves safe.
Julia Osteen says
Ok, Will. I get what you are saying. I frequently present to the teachers regarding Internet safety and I think our school (and teachers) have come a long way in this regard. But from time to time, I am still asked to address a specific subset of our student body on the topic of Internet safety, not because something has happened, but as a reminder to the kids. So, if you were in my shoes and were required to do this, what would you say or do? How would you approach the topic?
Your statement here: My point is that we have to start making this a part of our learning business, not an event when the need arises.
We are actually trying to make it part of our learning business. Does that mean there should never be a special focus on this topic? Isn’t it important enough to have an emphasis on it from time to time?
Cathy Nelson says
Julia (and I suppose Will), I did a parent workshop last year on socila networking, but suggested students be invited, that we have a panel discussion that included teachers, guidance, admin, comunity members, AND students who used SN software. It was FANTASTIC and the kids spoke very well, and their representation really ironed out wrinkles that knee jerk reactions created. I was very satisfied with their answers and representation on this panel. The kids can speak the most knowledgeably about it.
ONe thing I am working on for early this year is speakers who will come in and share with kids another issue I am constantly frustrated with–>Filtering. I am inviting nurses, office workers, a chemist, and more to share with our students that filtering is the reality in the professional world too. Not to make kids try harder to get around the filter, but instead realize that it is a reality in most jobs, and not just school. I also want to underscore there is a time and a place for certain online activities, and while we may not all agree with it, social networking should be done is places where it is acceptable. Until it is accepted at school, students need to understand where they can enjoy it.
But by and large, students are our best resource for teaching the good, the bad, and the ugly about social networking.
Will Richardson says
I think that’s great work to do right now, Cathy, but you’d agree, I think, that we have to work our way out of that job.
Julia Osteen says
Thanks for sharing this experience. It gives me much to think about. I agree with Will that modeling use of the tools is the best way to go but until we get all of our teachers there I feel that times of focus on this topic will need to occur.
Ken Allan says
Kia ora Will!
You are absolutely right – but more than that, it is bullying what the Police did, not just to Shaylah, but to the other kids as well. The school needs to be shown the way, and the Police need a head check too.
But more than that, the school also ignored the people who are as important, if not more important, in sorting all this out than the kids, who, as you say are scared but not fixed.
The teachers (as mentioned above) AND the parents need the input, and probably not from these Police either, though Police do have a part to play in all this – they obviously didn’t know their part in this case.
I recently attended the Netsafe Conference in New Zealand and posted about it. There the clear message was softly softly, educating the parents and the kids, NOT bullying the $#%& out of them.
Karl Fisch says
Will, there’s some question about whether the officer actually made those specific comments. http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_10281136
I do agree that they should be hearing this from those of us in the school community.
I don’t want to hijack this discussion, and I agree with what was written, but I’d like to point out that strangers are not the biggest dangers to our kids, especially the younger kids. As a general rule, we teach our children well how to protect themselves against strangers. Where we fail miserably is in teaching them how to protect themselves against family and others with close family ties of one sort or another. Believe it or not, 90-95% of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members, babysitters, neighbors, friends, yes, teachers, and other much-trusted people close to the children. These people spend months or even years, gaining the total trust of the children, “grooming” them for escalated activities. If you leave your child with a sitter and come back because you forgot something, is the child sitting on the sitter’s lap to watch TV? That may be fine, but it also may not be fine. Don’t ignore anything! Be aware of what’s going on, however innocent it may seem at the time! DO sit up and take notice if you child is suddenly asking lots of questions that seem to come from nowhere, or is spending too much time talking with friends and siblings about kissing, or other such things. Just pay attention. I learned this the hard way, and it was decidedly NOT fun.
Robyn W says
Every week I get asked how to protect our kids online. Every week I give the same answer…sit down and talk to your children about what is appropriate and safe usage of the internet. We have most social networking sites blocked at school so although we can do our best as educators to teach and guide our children, parents too need to be doing their part.
We have a great resource here in NZ that I use in all my classes from yr 1 through yr 6 and the conversations I end up having with the kids is more thought out than what our parents give their kids credit for.
Talk with your kids, make them aware of the dangers but give them credit where credit is due….they know what to look out for.
We need to educate both parents and kids about net safety and how to protect out information. If not, it’s like teaching someone to drive a car when all I drive is a bike. Similar rules….miles apart in thinking.
Scare tactics make some of us “digital immigrants” happy that we have educated the kids, but I also know that when I was younger if someone said “don’t” I always wanted to try it!!!
That officer is so gonna be sued and should not be on the force. That is just so wrong. My mouth is literally hanging open in shock………….
Randy Rodgers says
A couple of years ago, I was given the task of creating a district website and training material for Internet safety. One of the first shortcomings I recognized in my own experiences was that I had no experience with the most commonly used web resources, namely social networks. I joined MySpace and, later, Facebook, and began to explore. It was enlightening and helped clear up any misconceptions I had, and this helped me to create much more effective resources. Now, I am occasionally given the opportunity to share with students. I try to use humor and to show the amazing, positive aspects of the sites. I also frequently encourage teachers to sign up and get familiar with them. It is no different with so many other modern technologies. Teachers are far less familiar and proficient than their students, and the result is that they are unable to effectively address the subject in their classrooms. Ignorance tends to reproduce itself, unfortunately. Thanks for the post!
This is shocking. I take every opportunity to teach students how to protect themselves.
We can not control who views our information, but we can control what we place on the internet.
Thank all the teachers who take the time to work with kids and teach them how to protect themselves.
Great blog. First, I want you to know that when I saw your keynote last year in Omaha, I have been hooked on the social network or web 2.0 intitatives. I am amazed daily at how fearful the older generation is on this subject. I think your post nails it. Most administrators and school boards seem only to focus on the negative consequences these technologies have.
I have an example of You Tube. I teach an Art of Film course, which I informed my students I would have them create You Tube accounts to post their PSAs, Documentary projects, etc online. Further, I explained it was to learn from others and try and connect them with others having the same interests. I was shot down by admin. I cannot require them to get accounts or advise them to use it. Even when I explained why I desired this for the students (buidling networks, connecting them to others, using the technology in educational and appropriate way), it seemed to be taboo.
This implies that the educational system (in most regions) still thinks learning is prohibited except in a classroom. We have tools to extend student learning outside of the classroom but it isn’t acceptable? We deny a students that opportunity. Seems hipocritical to me, we want to teach 21st Century Skills so students an operate successfully in the world yet can’t use/teach the tools that will help them get there? I’d be interested in your thoughts.
Tim Goree says
Blocking certain sites due to an extreme amount of inappropriate content (like YouTube) is actually the law, at least here in California. YouTube is not the only place for you to do what you are seeking to do. Educators do need to get inventive sometimes to go in the right direction, despite the administration, or in this case, the law. Try TeacherTube.com….
Craig Colgan says
From my blog Municipalist on this:
Examples of “scare-tech” meetings, especially to youth, are ever increasing, it seems. My congressman recently held a “community forum” on the same topic for kids and their parents. I was not present but the fear tactic seems to have been employed there too. The local news media covered it, and no congressman is going to give a hoot about such “issues” unless there are votes to be harvested from seeming caring and in touch.
Perhaps we could extend this innovative approach to road safety. After all cars are pretty damn dangerous too. We could tell them stories of kids who failed to look when they crossed the road…
Then we could move on to safety in the home. You can get a nasty burn from a kettle…
If we play our cards right we’ll have a whole generation that goes nowhere and does nothing.
On the other hand we could empower them to live safely and productively in an exciting world.
For me that is just so wrong.
Kurtlar Vadisi Pusu says
think we should not only teach children about their digital footprint but model it ourselves as well, through responsible web use.