Today, we had a member of the Attorneys General office visit our students to talk with them about the precautions that must be taken when using social media. He gave some excellent advice to our students, and even took time to paint a picture of just how easy it is to get hold of your personal information, or even find out where you live or go to school.
When he asked if the students had Facebook accounts, I counted fewer than 15 students who raised their hands...these were 6th graders, by the way. Average age of eleven this time of year. When he asked if they had Instagram accounts, I could probably count no fewer than 15 students who didn't raise their hands. In case you were wondering, the minimum age to set up either of these accounts is 13. Hmmmm...
I think about my niece who had two Facebook accounts...one her family knew about, and one her family didn't know about.
Of course, Facebook is passé...if you are a tween or teen. I still like it. But I'm not 12. Its great for keeping up with people I knew in high school; and let's get serious for a moment...Where else would I post pictures of my cat???
Twitter is still pretty popular for tweens. But there are other platforms out there which allow them a little more anonymity. Snapchat, Kik, YikYak and Ask.fm are just a few of what are out there. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, sites like Ask.fm and Snapchat are not based in the United States, and obtaining information from them isn't the easiest. In fact, Ask.fm is based in Latvia, and has been linked to several suicides. You can read more about it by clicking here.
When working with middle school students, or any student or child for that matter, it is in your best interest to keep up with the latest trends in social media. The more knowledge you have about social media trends, the easier it is to handle a situation when it arises. You may also want to take a look at this Socialnomics video which showcases the state of social media this past year.
I'm glad that I didn't attend middle or high school in this age. I know I mentioned this in previous postings, but I was bullied something terribly when I was younger. I can only imagine how it would have been in the age of social media. Kids have a lot of advantages with growing up today. However, with those advantages comes a significant responsibility.
When working with kids, keep those thoughts in mind. I'm not going to say they have a lot more to handle than we ever did; but they have a different kind of burden to carry. It is a generational burden. They are going to stumble along the way, and they are going to need help recovering from their bumps and bruises. Most importantly, they are going to need help navigating this terrain. Keep this in mind when you work with students who get in a sticky social media situation. Be sure to keep yourself educated and informed so that you yourself may educate and inform them. Its more important than ever to be a lifelong learner. Take what you learn, and use it wisely.