We all – young people and everybody who works with them – are learning what that looks like: skilled navigation of a networked world. We’re also working out what the skills are, how to teach them and what kind of environment (home, school and media environment) supports that learning.
As a society, we’ve only just begun working the problem. The first 15 or so years of the public discussion about youth Internet safety has been much more about protecting children from new media than about helping them learn to navigate it successfully (including safely).
What do a high school student who’s a bullying prevention activist, two criminology professors and Safer Internet Day have in common? They’re all sending the same message that safety and wellbeing online takes all of us.
Aidan McDaniel the student activist says school safety happens from the ground (the students) up. Social cruelty both online and offline isn’t a student problem that administrators and teachers can fix from the top down, he told Public News Service when he was 16, it’s “everybody’s problem” and the solution doesn’t happen “without working with each other.”
The New York City Department of Education has published a social media guide for students – one for which, very wisely, it got student input. And apparently students were asking for guidance like this. Jane Pook, DOE executive director for digital communication policy and strategy, told the Huffington Postthat demand for the guide “came from students.” Across the river in New Jersey, teacher Kevin Jarrett told his professional network in Facebook that it’s “one of the best guides of its kind I’ve seen, and should be required reading at districts anywhere that truly embrace social media in the classroom.” [As for New Jersey itself, the state Senate just passed a bill that "would require middle school students to take a course on how to use social media responsibly," the Huff Post reported. Let's hope it will be taught well.]
When you prevent children from socially interacting online, you hinder their ability to progress emotionally; to intellectual keep up with the progressive rhythm of this digital age. Anne Collier of Net Family News refers to this as Internal Safeguards. The steps that parents and caretakers take to instill traits that improve with age wherever the child may go, digitally and physically. External safeguards, like chat filters help to create a healthy and engaging online environments, but are merely tools.
As we welcome in a new year, some thoughts on the promise and protective properties of compassion and resilience for our children (and all of us)…
In the US and probably many other countries, the Internet safety discussion has focused largely on external safeguards: filtering, monitoring and other parental control tools, household and school rules, state and federal laws. Those can be helpful in the quest to increase children’s wellbeing online and offline, especially if caregivers and rulemakers are applying them thoughtfully and recalibrating for age-appropriateness the way parents typically do. But external protections aren’t the only kind. They’re not the only kind of protection kids need at a time when connectivity is as mobile as our kids are, a time when we seem to have less control over our kids’ connectivity all the time and when – even when we feel we do – they have plenty of workarounds.